Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the psychic network: a SIMULBLOG!...

It's over. Jason wins.

I read Paula's notes.

Okay so maybe not. But maybe Jason's done. We'll know soon enough who's living and who's dying.

Because it's execution night on American Idol!

And this is a simulblog, which means I'm calling the play-by-play, with a few snarky comments thrown in (okay, so maybe more than a few) as the action is unfolding live on the East Coast (or 2 hours ago in Paula-land), and I'm hitting the publish now button at every break, so if you want to know, stick around. If you don't want to know, go read the 16,593 reviews of Paula-gate. But come back and leave your thoughts on the saga of the final five.

Five will become four and the four are, reportedly, going to sing the "songs that shaped rock and roll." You're welcome David Cook. And since Neil Diamond is making the rounds, hawking his new CD, well, there will be a performance from him too. But he won't be killed. They did enough damage to the man last night.

Hold on to your coke cups kids...the show is about to start!

Ryan tells us over 45 million votes were phoned in. On speed dial, I'm sure.

And we start with a top five group sing. Jason Castro starts with Cracklin' Rosie, handing off to Archuleta, who hands off to Cook, who gives way to the women and Song Sung Blue. And I finally get my Brother Love! And this group, after all these weeks, still cannot get the hang of group harmony. I liked it anyway.
Okay, well, I didn't hate it.

Gina Glocksen and Constantine Maroulis are in the audience. They are not dating; they are working together. And Ace Young is there too, but Ryan passes him by because he has to hawk the Underwood stamp.

We get the requisite retrospective of last night's horserace.

And it's time to start the killings.

Jason Castro is called onstage. He's reminded of his reviews, psychic and otherwise, and he's told to head to the sofa of safety.

David Archuleta is summoned. Paula tells him he needs to have more fun. David tells her he will work on having fun. (One has to work at having fun?) He's safe, so he'll have six days to practice the fun stuff.

After a display of the winning Coke cup design and a pimp for Nigel's dancing show, it's time to get back to why we're here.

David Cook is called to join Ryan. He is reminded that Paula anointed him the Idol (and she is psychic, you know). And, no surprise, David is sent to join the guys on the comfy couch.

Syesha Mercado and Brooke White are called out together. Fitting, considering they're this week's bottom feeders.

Both of them are reminded of their reviews, like they're going to get cut before Neil Diamond even makes an appearance. They're sent to the guys' side of the stage to wait it out. Brooke says no problem: "We'll stay as long as we can." Snarky Brooke. I like that.

Natasha Beddingfield is there. She is singing. I like her, but I don't know why she is on this show.

They are taking phone calls. I don't know why. I didn't even miss them last week.

I just keep thinking about all this time that they're wasting that could have been really useful last night.

The Idols are "catching the wind" in a very green Ford commercial. Al Gore will be pleased.

Time for Neil Diamond, because he has a new CD hitting the stores soon! The man truly is brilliant. Awww, his mom came to watch.


Anyone who is paying any attention knows that, barring a shocker, we're headed for a David-squared finale, so the other three are toast, the only question is the order.

Both of the women join Ryan on stage, and he gives Brooke White the bad news. She starts to bawl. Kristy Lee is in the audience smiling. Everyone who rushed to save her last week went back to regular phoning. But she goes out on a strong performance. (We'll just agree to forget the other one.) She gets to watch her journey to the sound of Ruben.

Congratulations Brooke. You did well. Goodbye. And good luck.

hey, hey paula...

Now you gone and done it. After lamenting the fact that this season's Idol has been virtually free of headline-making controversy, our favorite loopy judge goes and stirs (or was that slurs or was that smokes) the pot, by condeming a performance that hadn't even occurred yet.

The conspiracy theorists are having a field day. The Betty Ford Center is on standby. Ryan Seacrest is doing damage control. And the rest of us are just left shaking our heads.

After all, this is not the first time Paula Abdul's behavior has had us scratching our heads. But this is the first time she's put a contestant at risk, put the show's credibility at risk and, certainly, put herself in one major pile of poop.

Now she is saying she did catch Jason Castro's second song, September Morn, during dress rehearsal and, since the show was running short and she got caught by surprise by having to give a first-round critique, between the notes and her recollection, well, she just got perplexed.

Hey Paula, you were reading your notes about Castro's second song. And you specifically called out his second song, including the quote, "the two songs made me feel like you're not fighting hard enough to get into the top four." Did you take the notes during the rehearsal? Were you even paying attention during the show?

But that's her explanation. Others are not so convinced.

Some think there's nothing to look at here, just crazy Paula who might need a rest from judging. Like, permanently.

Some are convinced that Nigel and Company provided Ms. Abdul with pre-scripted reviews, and, in Idol land, and the universe of Paula, all is not necessarily as it appears.

But one thing is for certain. Last week Paula ripped Brooke White a new one for unprofessionally starting and stopping. I agreed with Paula then. I agree with Paula now.

If you can't handle the pressure of live television, if you can't handle the curves thrown at you during the course of it, if you can't do a one-hour job that you get paid a gazillion dollars to do, maybe it's time for a refresher course in professionalism.

I love Paula's blatherings about shoes and clothes and essences and coconuts, but this was the gaffe heard around the world. And regardless of the reasons, this Sylvia Browne moment has cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the show, far more dark than a thousand Corey Clarks could ever do.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

diamond night: idols on speed...

It's down to five kids. It's up to two songs each. And the diamonds in the rough meet the Diamond for all ages.

It's Neil Diamond. On American Idol!

And so to honor his visit, the intrepid and always brilliant producers decide to cram ten songs into one hour, rushing the kids through the first round so poorly that none of the first round performances had the time to make any impression. Hell, they even shut the judges up until the five performances had concluded, which played havoc on Paula's fragile mental state.

I have watched every episode of every season. This was, without comparison, the poorest excuse for a performance episode ever. If they're going to insist upon selling 45 minutes of commercials and yet have the five remaining kids singing two songs each, expand the show to 90 minutes or stick to single performances and give the kids a few extra seconds of stage time.

This was unforgiveable.

But here they are, my initial impressions, subject to review and revision after a night of rest and reflection, cause honestly I couldn't keep up and don't wanna watch again so soon, but they are, as always, from worst to first.

Brooke White (I'm a Believer). Brooke chooses a guitar for this song, and starts horribly off-key, probably because she's singing far lower than she's comfortably able. I've decided they're rushing the first round of songs to fit the show into one hour and still have time for 45 minutes of commercials, because there is no nuance to the song. But there are a lot of Whoos!

Jason Castro (Forever in Blue Jeans). With his guitar in hand, Jason opened the show and struggled a tad, it seemed, with his key, before finding it quickly enough to deliver a standard, not extraordinary nor memorable, rendition of the song. It has seemed, of late, that Jason's main goal is to get his song over in the quickest way possible.

Jason Castro (September Morn). I'm trying to decide if Jason simply thinks this show is getting old, or if he just wants to go home.

Syesha Mercado (Thank the Lord for the Nighttime). Syesha still has lost the shoes, but has added the background singers to the stage. Nice touch. Too bad they can't save this song, a very poor choice of song with only five singers remaining.

David Archuleta (America). The only thing missing from this performance was the Statue of Liberty arising from the mosh pit (preferably wiping out a few dozen of the waving maniacs along the way). Simon was right; it was a clever song choice, but, despite the fact that it was flat throughout, it was typical Archuleta. The song is the same. Only the words (and occasionally the tempo) changes.

David Archuleta (Sweet Caroline). In David's first choice of the night, had I not known the lyrics I would never had recognized the song. It wasn't until he hit the chorus that it started to resemble anything remotely like the original.

Syesha Mercado (Hello Again). Syesha again gets points for bare feet and starts her first song sitting at the edge of the stage. Her vocals are strong, she's by far the best of the two women tonight, but because they're rushing this show so mercilessly, it all just seemed very forced. And fake. And that's not necessarily her fault.

David Cook (I'm Alive). Neil Diamond tells DC that he gave him goosebumps, but that he's choosing songs nobody's ever heard of. I know this song though, and David turns in a fine, if rushed version of it, staying true to the Diamond version but giving it the traditional Cook twist.

Brooke White (I Am ... I Said). This was very nice, even though it was a bit rushed, but that's the recurring theme of the night. It's very heartfelt, but that's Brooke's strong suit, even when her notes fail her. Or the lyrics. But neither did.

David Cook (All I Really Need is You). I know what's going on my iPod first thing tomorrow. Or whenever it's available. In a poorly-executed, chaotic and underperformed night, this was the highlight. But that's getting to be the tradition this season.

So, who's on the bubble?

With only five singers, they'll pull out a bottom two. And considering it's gonna take a Mack truck and the national guard to get either of the Davids off the show, the other three just have to survive at this point, and Brooke may have just done enough.

Therefore, I'll predict, not that I'm ever right, that Jason and Syesha will hit the stools and Jason will win out by a dreadlock. Not that he deserves to.

So, what did you think?

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CAUTION: song spoilers...

It's Neil Diamond night! Yay! And the kids are singing double duty.

TMZ has the spoilers, so here they are. No word on performance order, though. So if you don't want to know, leave. Leave quickly!

Brooke White: I Am, I Said & I'm a Believer.
Syesha Mercado: Thank the Lord for the Nighttime & Hello Again.
Jason Castro: Forever in Blue Jeans & September Morn.
David Archuleta: Sweet Caroline & America.
David Cook: I'm Alive & All I Really Need is You.

So there you have it. Three hours and counting. See you then.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

news & notes...

It's down to the final five - where has the time gone? - and people are still buzzing about the surprise ouster of Carly Smithson in the sixth position when most agree that Carly was on a rebound after some weak early-season performances and Brooke White is on the downslope, especially after her second do-over in six weeks.

Was it her song choice? Some people think so. After all, Jesus Christ Superstar is a 38-year-old rock opera and if one doesn't know the story of the character who is singing the title song, asking the questions the song does, the standalone lyrics might be off-putting to some. We went through this four decades ago after all.

While I do agree that some voters who might have voted for Carly could have changed their minds, something just tells me that most undecided voters might have rushed to save Brooke in her moment of trouble. This show is not new. Voter behavior is not new. We've all become accustomed to the need to save the downtrodden one after a blunderous performance, which is why, more often than not, struggling singers have been booted after giving, sometimes, the best performance of their tenure.

It might have been the song. But I don't buy it.

It's Neil Diamond week for the remaining five, and, if tradition serves, each of them will be singing two songs. And there are more than enough Diamond songs from which to choose. I'm going on record now to say that whichever one of them chooses Dr. Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show, will get all of my votes. So, who should sing what?

Ratings for this season have been down. But that's down on the American Idol scale. They're still ratings that any other show on the planet would sell their mother for. And some people think they know why, including the lack of a Sanjaya and the tragic lack of nekkid pictures on the internet.

I knew there was something missing this year.

And while we're waiting for Tuesday, and since yesterday's Clay/Ruben finale aired on AI Rewind has me waxing all nostalgic, check out Michael Slezak's 15 greatest Idol performances, complete with video and including this season. And then, for giggles, treat yourself to the 10 worst.

That should give us all something to pass the time until performance night.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

6 is one too many: a SIMULBLOG!...

It was a night to remember. Jesus Christ, the superstar, whooped a Cat. There was a Phantom named David (x2) who beat the crap outta Evita and Syesha danced barefoot on a piano.

Wait a minute. Let me start over. I'm sorry.

THIS is American Idol.

And this is a SIMULBLOG, where I'm typing without any do-overs as the action is unfolding on the east coast, with a publish at every break, so if you want to be spoiled, hang tight and keep hitting the refresh (do-over?) button. But if you want to be surprised, it's time to go. But come back and dish about the results with the rest of us.

Because the field's gonna get cut to the five lucky kids who get to sing the songs of Neil Diamond next week. And the killing is about to begin!

Ryan tells us over 38 million votes rolled in, right before he plants a kiss on Simon's head. Eww.

The kids, with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber at the piano, warble through That's All I Ask of You. And the stupid moshers are waving their stupid arms. Knock it off moshers. That's all I ask. And a medley. With a gazillion Broadway musicals to the man's credit and an hour to kill, one would at least expect a medley that would allow each of the six to have a crack at a solo. But no.

I want a do-over.

Caution: I'm kinda cranky tonight.

They're pimping the tour already. And since Andrew Lloyd Webber isn't hawking a CD, we are treated to a Q&A between he and Ryan. He has been, without question, one of the best mentors this show has ever had. And he says, essentially, that Brooke has a future and Jason is, well, Jason.

Very imaginative Ford commercial. Very interesting hairstyles. Tainted Love, indeed.

And they're still patting themselves on the back for IGB. This time it's with GWB and Laura.

Tonight it's gonna be bottom two, cause there's only two stools, room enough only for two bottoms.

The Davids are summoned together.

David Cook is given his reviews from the night before. Lava, hot, molten, stuff like that. David Archuleta is given his reviews. Simon is given a chance to explain his mean words. Cook says he wanted to be unpredictable by actually singing the song as it was written. Archuleta stumbles and fumbles through. And, not surprisingly, both are sent to the safety of the sofa.

The other four watch the monitor from backstage. And we're given fair warning that Leona Lewis is in the house.

We get to visit with Clay Aiken and Tamyra Gray! On Broadway! One in Spamalot and the other in Rent. And LaKisha is in the house too!

Leona sings. I would have rather heard Phil Stacey, who also has a new CD out. Or Josh Gracin, who is also debuting a new CD.

It's time to do some cutting.

Syesha and Brooke are called center stage. Syesha Mercado is reminded of her reviews after her best performance of the season. Brooke White is reminded that she wasn't so good. Brooke is told she's safe. And Syesha is told to sit on the stool. There's just always something about a pissy performance that brings out the support and something about a kick-ass performance that lulls voters into complacency. Ah well. Lessons.

Castro and Carly are left waiting. Cause we got commercials to air!

Carly and Castro have arrived to the stage. They are reminded of their reviews. Jason is told he's safe and Carly is sent to join Syesha on the stools.

Well, at least whichever one leaves leaves after a really good performance. That's always a good thing. And they're both gonna sing once more, because there's too much time left.

Carly gets a chance to redeem her lyrical missteps from last night, and she does so. Syesha doesn't have a piano, so she uses the judges' station as a ramp. And, after a weak start, performs possibly better than the night before.

Both of them look terrified. Randy blames that blasted popularity vote. Carly is told that she's headed home. Silence hits the audience before the groans take over.

She and we watch her journey to the sound of Ruben Studdard.

Hmm. I won't say it's a shocker, because it isn't. But I won't say that it's fair.

So long Carly. And good luck.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

and 6 of them praise the lord...

It's Andrew Lloyd Webber night, as the final six sing the songs of the Lord in a halfway salute to Broadway and a full-on salute to one of the most brilliant composers of our time. The kids even score a free trip to Vegas to work with the Lord, who admits he's been an idol virgin until last week when he caught his first episode.

The Lord's music wasn't kind on most of the kids, but, again, they're trying out to be pop stars, not Broadway legends, so at least none of them got criticized for being too Broadway. They just got criticized for being crappy. Or forgetting lyrics and expecting an entire band to stop and start over.

So here they are, my impressions as I'm watching, complete with the occasional typo but as always, from worst to first:

Jason Castro (Memory from Cats). Okay, so Jason didn't know that this song, from the musical Cats, was sung by a, uhhh, cat. We should have known what we were gonna get. His breathiness is distracting. And I think he misses more notes than he completes, he's so far out of his comfort zone he just got a new zip code. Randy calls it a trainwreck. That pretty much sums it up.

Brooke White (You Must Love Me from Evita). After a mini-lesson in Argentinian history, Brooke says she "gets" the message behind this song, but unfortunately she doesn't "get" the start, decides to stop the band and start over. Again. She is the only contestant in the history of the show to stop and start, and now she's done it twice. And Paula justifiably crawls her butt for it. The other judges crawl her butt for her vocals and defend her decision to restart, even though she admits that she "lost the lyric." But continuing in a string of weak performances, Brooke may have just written her obituary.

Syesha Mercado (One Rock & Roll Too Many from Starlight Express). Syesha gets stuck in the fatal opening spot. And she gets points for the bare feet and the guts to start standing on the piano and in 90 seconds shows more personality than she has in the last two months. Randy calls her performance her best to date, and despite a handful of really sour notes, I can't help but agree.

David Archuleta (Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera). Andrew Lloyd Webber tells Archuleta to open his eyes. Thank you Lord Lloyd Webber. And he chooses a snoozer of a song. Randy and Paula drool all over him, but I'm siding with Simon. It was bland, simply pleasant, but certainly not memorable. What young David could have done with another choice.

Carly Smithson (Jesus Christ Superstar from Jesus Christ Superstar). Brooke could take some lessons about missing lyrics and moving on, as she fluffs (or intentionally altered?) many of them at the front of the song. Simon calls her a bit screechy at times. But when hasn't she been. I like Carly when she's having fun. And it didn't hurt that she was the only one to choose from my favorite ALW work.

David Cook (Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera). David plays this number straight, even through being told to look longingly into the eyes of the 17-year-old beauty Andrew Lloyd Webber. And, despite some rough patches that are common with his lower register and a final note that could have been avoided, he wraps up the show for the second time in the finals with the best performance of the night.

So who is leaving? I don't know anything but the fact that the two Davids are safe. So I will just flip a metaphorical coin.

Who I want: Brooke, Jason, Syesha
Who should: Brooke, Jason, Syesha
Who will: Brooke, Jason, Syesha

Jason could be in some real trouble, and Syesha seems to have a significant fan base, so there might just been a flood of tears on the stage. Brooke says goodbye.

So, who's in your bottom three?

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CAUTION: song spoilers...

It's Andrew Lloyd Webber's night on Idol, so there better not be any "better suited for Broadway" cracks from the panel of picky ones.

The song spoilers are below, so if you don't wanna know, don't read any further.

Syesha: One Rock & Roll Too Many (Starlight Express). And reports say that she's leading off, which has been deadly this season.

David Cook: Music of the Night (Phantom of the Opera). And he's wearing a "special jacket."

Carly: Jesus Christ Superstar. We're either gonna love it or, well, not.

Brooke: You Must Love Me (Evita). We just may not, Brooke.

Castro: Memory (Cats). No ukulele required. Please.

Archuleta: Think of Me (Phantom of the Opera).

So there they are.

See you tonight.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

with 6 you get two: a SIMULBLOG...

Two songs anyway. After tonight we'll be treated to not one, but multiple performances from the lucky hangers-on, because when we're finished we'll be down to half the field. Finally. And in this year of gender parity, it seems fairly likely that tonight's victim will be female. Or at least she better be.

Because THIS is American Idol. And we kill people here. Or at least we try to kill their hopes and dreams along with their self-esteem. (At least the MJ fans think so.)

And this is a SIMULBLOG where I'm throwing away all self-censorship and typing as the action is happening live on the East Coast, with a publish at every significant break, so if you want to know, stick around and uncensor yourself. If you want to remain pure and unspoiled, then go. But come back and rant, rave or revel in the outcome.

All seven of them broke the cardinal rule about not singing Mariah Carey because she threatened to sing all 117 octives in their ear if they didn't. And Mariah is in the house, along with one of our favorite Idols evah, Mr. Elliott Yamin. So I can deal with the insipid phone calls if my man Elliott is gonna sing.

Ryan tells us almost 36 million votes were phoned in Tuesday. And they go immediately to the crappy group song. One Sweet Day, they sing. Pretty much separately. And their separate performances really highlight how crappy this group is as a, well, group. That was really not good.

There is only one week left to vote in the All-American Crappy Coronation Song Contest (ACCSC)! Get to it voters!

We are made to watch the high and lowlights from last night's performance episode. At least they make them interesting by showing us bits and pieces of behind-the-scenes commentary from the kids. Brooke tells Simon that it hurt her feeling knowing that she was just an empty bun, for instance.

Time to get "down to business."

Jason Castro is summoned to join Ryan. He's reminded of his reviews and, as we expected, they're separating them into "groups." Jason starts "team Jason."

David Cook is called in. He says he was overwhelmed by the events of the week. He captains "team David", the team that all of the kool kids want to be in.

Carly Smithson is called in. She tells Simon he's been too tough on her this season. Simon tries to explain. Carly is sent to join Team Jason.

Kristy Lee Cook comes out. She is told she's on Team David.

Elliott is next! YAY!

It's the crappy Ford commercial. The kids are puppets wanting the break free. Thankfully they found scissors.

Elliott takes the stage and Sway Penala joins Kenya and the background singers with Free. Claudette, Elliott's mom, who passed away recently, gets well-deserved remembrance. Season five, after all, would have not been season five without her. Good job Elliott.

The teams continue to be formed.

Syesha Mercado is told to join Carly on Team Jason.

Brooke White is told to join Team David, leaving little Archuleta, who waits backstage, to choose between the groups.

Yay. Phone calls. I simply will not comment.

Mariah Carey sings Bye Bye. And, if her post-performance antics are any indication, she spent the first half of the show sipping out of Paula's cup.

Let's get to the reason we're here!

Archuleta is brought to the stage, between Team David with Kristy and Brooke and Team Jason with Carly and Syesha. Archuleta is told he's safe.

Ryan tells David Cook to swap places with Syesha. I guess that means Team David is now Team Syesha. Hell, I'm confused.

Archuleta sits cross-legged the minute he's told to join the safe team. Ryan drags Team Jason/David/Carly to the squatter, leaving the bottom dwellers, Brooke, Syesha and Kristy.

After a commercial, Kristy, Brooke and Syesha stand center stage. Ryan sends Syesha back to the sofa to join her friends, the kook kids. Brooke and Kristy are all huggy. Randy says he can't call this week. Paula babbles. Simon avoids any more hamburger analogies.

Ryan tells Brooke she's safe and, after countless escapes from eviction, Kristy Lee Cook gets booted. How nice for her, though, that it was after a really good performance.

There are many many tears. We watch her journey as she listens to Ruben.

She makes the most of her final sing. Good girl Kristy. And good luck.

She better get her damn horse back.

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this just in...

For all of us Elliott Yamin fans who were a bit bummed not to have seen him perform on AGB, good news!

He'll be back on the Idol stage tonight, performing. Evidentially the deal was finalized just last night to have one of the show's most beloved Idols return. And for those of us who were dreading an hour of Mariah Carey and phone calls actually have something to look forward to, aside from the inevitable boot of one of the women.

Don't worry Mariah fans; she is still slated to sing. After all, she has a CD to sell. But this is Idol, this is an Idol blog, and around these parts we prefer our alumni to all the folks that Randy Jackson has ever met in his entire lifetime.

Elliott again. Hmm. I do believe that makes more non-finale appearances from season 5's third-place finisher than we've had from the same season's final two. Combined.

See you tonight!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the saga of seven divas...

After years of being warned against trying to emulate Miss Whitney, Miss Celine and Miss Mariah Carey, the seven remaining season seven kids are being forced to attempt the big voice. Something about all of this just doesn't seem fair.

But who cares? Because THIS is American Idol. And "fair" ain't a word we use in the same sentence.

Okay, I'll be honest from the get go. I've read the spoilers, and, aside from two of the song selections, I don't have a clue about Mariah Carey music. (And in fairness, one of the selections - Without You - was much better in its original version. In my opinion, of course.)

And who woulda thunk that three guys would have mopped the floor with four gals on Mariah night?

But it's time for the slaughter, so here they are, my impressions, written live while they're occurring, so no snide remarks about the typos, please, and, as usual, from worst to first:

Brooke White (Hero). Brooke is still lamenting the fact that she had to miss her sister's wedding. Then she decides to destroy one of the few Mariah Carey songs I like, missing notes throughout and relying on just the piano. This was one time I think she would have been more effective standing alone at the microphone and allowing the band to complement the vocal. The judges dissolve into a discussion of meat and buns while Brooke stands looking typically perplexed.

Syesha Mercado (Vanishing). Mariah says Syesha made a wise song choice, which is probably true considering Syesha's tendency toward big vocals. Personally, I don't like the song, but I'm not sure that's because of Syesha. Randy gives her a thumbs half up, Paula speaks Paula and Simon questions her choice of an unknown song while praising her technical ability, but makes sure to tell her that she's no David Archuleta.

Kristy Lee Cook (Forever). Kristy continues to impress me. And while Randy was right that there were a few iffy moments, especially in the front of her performance when she was struggling with the lower register, the end more than made up for the start. She will survive another week, but she continues to earn her ticket forward rather than just skating through.

Carly Smithson (Without You). Carly makes sure everyone knows how much the kids miss the newly-departed Michael Johns. And she chooses the much over-sung-on-this-show song that Kelly Clarkson made her mark on, so not only will she be judged against Mariah, but she will be judged against former idols. All three judges comment that she's holding back, perhaps out of caution, and lavish her with praise that could be only describe as tepid. I think that Clarkson and London have nothing to fear.

Jason Castro (I Don't Wanna Cry). I don't know this song, so I have nothing on which to base this, and it wasn't my favorite Jason performance, but as Simon said at the end of his review, the guys at their worst were better than the girls at their best.

David Archuleta (When You Believe). David #1 gets the lead-off spot (a cursed spot over the course of this season), and suffers from the traditional drowning out of his vocals by the band and background singers. But the vocals that do rise above the background are typically David, everything we've come to expect from the kid. The judges fawn over him while I can't help but wonder if and/or when he will ever depart from the inspiring ballad path that he's chosen.

David Cook (Always Be My Baby). And here I thought the guys would be inherently at a disadvantage. After a bit of a scare at the front of this song, David #2 takes it into typical DC world, causing Randy to stand for the first time this season, Paula to spout more Paula-isms and Simon to declare the show finally free from karaoke hell.

So there they are, for what they're worth. Now it's your turn to critique. But not before the predictions that are as reliable as, well, the weather. I will say this now, though: if there is not an all-male final three, based on the competition thus far, something is terribly rotten somewhere in Denmark.

Who I want: three girls, I don't care which ones.
Who should: Brooke, Carly, Syesha
Who will: Brooke, Carly, Syesha

As much as I think Brooke should leave after two very disappointing weeks, I think Syesha may have reached the end of her line tonight.

So, what do you think?

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CAUTION: song spoilers...

The divas are singing Mariah Carey tonight. Oh joy! Oh rapture! Oh dear!

TMZ is reporting the spoilers, so if you don't wanna know, now's the time to exit, cause here they are:

Syesha: Vanishing
David Cook: Always Be My Baby
Carly: Without You
Brooke: Hero
Castro: I Don't Wanna Cry
Kristy Lee: Forever
Archuleta: When You Believe

Fasten your seatbelts kids. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Monday, April 14, 2008

news & notes...

The remaining seven contestants will be celebrating the force that is Mariah Carey. That's right: after years of being scolded for even attempting to sing the songs of the "big three" divas, now the kids, including three guys, are being forced to be divas for the evening.

I can't even begin to predict which of Ms. Carey's songs Jason Castro will ukulele to.

But while we wait, here's some of what's going on in the inter-web...

There might be a few tears shed Tuesday night as David Cook's brother, the one battling brain cancer, will be there in the audience. It was a big effort to get him there, considering his health and the fact that the doctors prohibited him from taking a commercial flight. But take someone's determination to get Adam (the AC on David's guitar) to Los Angeles and add to that the generosity of a community, and dreams do come true. Now that's really "giving back."

Read about Adam's great adventure here.

Jason Castro's version of Over the Rainbow has soared up the iTunes charts and is currently the number one downloaded studio number, followed by Archuleta's Angels. Okay, I'll admit. I was one of the Rainbow downloaders too, and the more I listen to it, the better it gets.

The great American Crappy Coronation Songwriting Contest (ACCSC) has commenced. Votes are due like, uh, yesterday. There are 20 songs from which to choose. You can listen to all of them then rate them. There are some that are - wait for this - actually not crappy. And there are others that I couldn't get through the required introduction before rating lower than the law allows.

Visit, listen, vote. Enjoy. Or not.

People are still ticked off not only about Michael Johns' dismissal last week, but about the way Ryan chose to target him and offer a morsel of hope that the elimination, like last season, was just a prank before hitting with the "you're outta here" sign. Johns says he has no hard feelings.

This is American Idol, where cruelty is raised to an art form. In fact, most long-time viewers are expecting the traditional "Huff" elimination Wednesday, commonly referred to as getting "georged." It's the perfect setup with seven - placing three safe people on one side of the stage and the three bottom feeders on the other side, leaving one poor misguided, but safe, fool to have to choose which group to stand with. The first contestant to have to choose was Season Three's George Huff, who obviously had been given no prior warning, and, given the choice between the group with Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson and the second group with Jasmine Trias and John Stevens, chose the obvious, but wrong, side of the stage.

Imagine having to hurt the feelings of three of your colleagues in front of gazillions of people on live television. It was tough to watch George being put in that position, but at least he knows that his name has now become a verb.

Three guys remain. Four girls are hanging in there. Anybody want to take odds that it's not going to be a good week of one of the ladies?


Didn't think so.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

7 is enough: a SIMULBLOG...

Well they've given back. And now it's time to give back one of the remaining eight.

It's back to business. Because THIS is American Idol.

And this is a SIMULBLOG, which means that while the action is happening live on the east coast, it's being explained in a wacky and convoluted sort of way here, complete with random thoughts and random typos, so if you want to be spoiled hang around, because I'll be publishing at every important break. If you want to remain pure until the execution is aired in your area, you need to leave. But remember to return and moan and groan (or jump and celebrate) with the rest of us.

Because the show is about to start!

Ryan promises us surprises as he introduces the judges. (And Mandisa is in the audience!) We get a review of IGB, because it's been 24 hours since it aired and, since it ran over, many of us didn't get to see the end except on Over $60 million has been raised and Ryan implores us to keep calling and downloading the show's songs from iTunes. (There's a link in the sidebar for your convenience...and a commission for me. Shameless, I know.)

The kids reprise their Shout to the Lord finale song that TiVo didn't record. No cheezy choreography. Just some simply swaying and audience strolling. And a really big church choir. Very nice, even though this group does struggle with singing as a group.

They're still airing the "give money" promos, but I love Zach and Cody, so I don't mind.

Over 31 million votes were phoned in from people not pledging money. It's time to start setting the field.

Brooke White is first. She is reminded of her reviews. And after telling everyone about her sister's wedding this weekend, she tells herself she's safe.
David Cook is next. The hairstyle is disturbing. He gets reminded he was called "pompous." And he's safe. Good. Now I can keep watching the show.
David Archuleta is summoned. And the moshers are told to shut the hell up. Well, sorta. And, no surprise, he is also safe.
The safe people celebrate as we're shown the empty stools of death. And go to commercial.

More IGB promos and a video that they, apparently, didn't have time for last night. Geesh, they aired that thing for three hours and still ran over. The video is both touching and disturbing. I hope the money goes to where it can do the most good.

And it's time for Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown and her new single No Air. Ryan and assorted people present the reigning idol with plaques recognizing her gazillion sales/downloads. Good girl, Jordin!

At least all of the IGB festivities didn't keep us from crappy - but colorful - Ford commercial. The Idols are Celebrating!

Jason Castro is called to center stage. He's reminded that the judges gushed over him. And he's told he's safe.
Kristy Lee Cook is called. And she's safe too.
That leaves Carly Smithson, Michael Johns and Syesha Mercado in the bottom three. People boo. _______

More IGB promos, including a wonderfully snarky John McCain. I actually snickered.

The bottom three are standing center stage. Randy is surprised. Paula says the three is "partly right, partly wrong." Simon is typically smug. And Ryan throws us to commercial.

And they're back.

Michael, Carly and Syesha are reminded of their song selections and their judges comments.

Syesha and Carly are told they're safe. Michael is left, people boo, and Ryan tells us it's the end of Michael's road.

I didn't see that one coming. Ruben sings while we watch MJ's journey.

The judges offer him advice, Simon gets one more dig in about a bad song selection, and Michael sings the show out.

Wow. I am still surprised. I think it was the scarf.

See ya Michael. And good luck.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

they're giving back...

So say what you want. Give if you want. Skip if you want.

There will be no play-by-play commentary from me, because it's a break in the action, while we await tomorrow night's execution.

They're good causes. I hope they raise tons of money. And, more importantly, tons of awareness so that people give because they want to. Not just because they're feeling compelled to.

See you tomorrow night. 8 p.m. Sharp.


the final 8: inspire me...

It was billed as a night of inspirational music. So I fully expected to jump from my chair at the end of the hour, grab my superhero's cape and save the planet.

Saving the planet will have to wait. I went to bed.

After a promising start to this season, it seems we may have hit the plateau, where the show starts to lag a little, the kids become a little more tired and the weeks until the finale seem like years.

Or maybe it's just me.

It was another night of pleasantry, with only a couple of poor performances thrown in, but, as has become the norm the past few weeks, nothing memorable, nothing that I'll be rewatching for days. I want to be grabbed and shaken by the throat again. Is that too much to ask?

But, at least, by the end of the week, aside from being constantly reminded how many gazillions of dollars was raised, we can kiss goodbye to the back-slapping, self-congratulatory thing that is Idol Gives Back. There is that.

So anyway, here are my reviews from the evening, a day late and a dime short, but as always from worst to first:

Carly Smithson (The Show Must Go On). It was Carly at her oversinging angriest. Simon's observation that she lost control of the song was spot-on, and his prediction that Carly could be in trouble is right. I don't know what else to say about this performance except to say that it was a trainwreck. And trainwrecks don't inspire me.

Syesha Mercado (I Believe). This is the seventh season of American Idol. Among the cardinal rules for this show is that an Idol wannabe does not choose to sing the crappy coronation song of an Idol winnerwas. You just don't do it. Just say no. The judges will compare you to the original, and you will pale in comparison. The voters will either be offended that you thought you had the chops to imitate their beloved champ or be offended that you evoked wretched memories of that Idol that they believe should never had made the finals, much less won. You can't win. Enough with the Whitney, enough with the Fantasia, Syesha. You are doing yourself no favors.

Brooke White (You've Got a Friend). I hate saying this, but Brooke is teetering on boring. I like this girl, best of the remaining women, but I knew in my gut that she would find something in the Carole King library to choose. And when one becomes predictable, well, one becomes overlooked. Brooke needs to pull out a performance that forces people to want to vote for her. Instead she pulled out a snoozer that made me want to go to bed instead.

David Cook (Innocent). David #2 has been applauded all season for his "originality," pulling out little-known arrangements of well-known songs to great success. Last night he pulled out a little-known song, which can turn voters off by itself, but, for the first time, performed it weakly, often being completely deluged by the band and enormous throng of background singers. The "read the hand" moment was a nice touch, but the jacket would have been perfect on Beatles night. Luckily for him, he should have enough cash stored in the bank to avoid any trips to the stools tomorrow.

Kristy Lee Cook (Anyway). Who knew? Okay, she's no Martina McBride. Hell, she's not even Martina Hingis, but after a season's worth of less-than-staying-worth quality and countless escapes from the final sing-out, Kristy's was the only performance that really made me smile. Not because it was Grammy-worthy, but because, for her, it was her shining, memorable moment. It will either be a good note on which to leave, or it will buy her a "get off the stool free" card. Which one is yet to be seen.

David Archuleta (Angels). I'm not a big fan of this song, but I did appreciate Archuleta's understated and simple approach to it. His voice was strong, the piano was a good touch and his facial expressions have improved tremendously, allowing his talent to become the focus of the performance.

Michael Johns (Dream On). What's up with the ascot? There was just something contradictory about performing Aerosmith whilst wearing one. But I digress. I don't know why the judges (save Paula) didn't appreciate this outing. I do understand that, in comparison with David Cook, MJ doesn't come off as the true "rocker" of the bunch, and I still don't think we've seen the showstopper he's capable of, but, aside from the Hollywood rounds, this was my favorite Michael moment thus far.

Jason Castro (Over the Rainbow). Okay, I'll be honest. In a wicked, almost perverse way, I was really hoping that Castro would perform this song sprawled out on the floor with bare feet, so that I could erase memories of the last time this song was sung on this show. But, truthfully, I preferred the sprawled out on the stool with a simple ukulele. And after having heard myriad overwrought, oversung versions of this classic, the simplicity of this arrangement was refreshing. It was Jason's best performance in weeks.

So there they are for what they're worth. So now comes the hard part, because going home could be any one of four women.

Who I want: Carly, Syesha, Brooke
Who should: Brooke, Carly, Syesha
Who will: Carly, Syesha, Brooke

Maybe it's just me, but ever since her visit to the bottom three, Carly has had a desperate air about her. She has to know that against the guys, she won't win. But she seems to think she does not deserve to sit on stools. And the minute voters get wind of any sense of entitlement from these kids, the urge to vote seems to wane.

And for that reason, I think Carly's in for the shock of her life.

So. What do you think?

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

CAUTION: spoilers ahead...

Remember, it's "inspirational" night, so prepare to be inspired.

But don't read if you don't wanna know!

No word on performance order, but here are the songs, according to TMZ:

Syesha: I Believe (Fantasia). Uh oh. Another idol doing an Idol. Never a good idea.
David Cook: Innocent (Our Lady Peace).
Carly: The Show Must Go On (Queen). We've had more Queen songs this season than we had on Queen night in season 5. I swear.
Brooke: You've Got a Friend (James Taylor). Why am I not surprised?
Castro: Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland and a multitude of others). I don't know what to say.
Michael Johns: Dream On (Aerosmith). This should be good. Very good.
Kristy Lee Cook: Anyway (Martina McBride).
Archuleta: Angels (Robbie Williams).

Inspired choices by inspired contestants on an inspired week.

What more could we ask?

Well, how about an open thread to discuss and debate the inspirationalism of this very inspirational night? No?

Oh why not. I will be back tomorrow, sometime after I'm done with that day job that they insist I maintain even during Idol season. In the meantime, have at it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

idol gave back...

Idol Gives Back, the Wednesday extravaganza that will be bookended by Tuesday's competition featuring "inspirational" songs and Thursday's 8 p.m. results, featuring reigning champ Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, was taped over the weekend.

If you want to know, the live and in-person details are here. I think I'll catch the first hour. At least this season we know we're not sitting around waiting for something that isn't going to happen.

So, are you going to watch?


Thursday, April 03, 2008

time to give back...

Next week, in case you haven't heard because the cave you're living in doesn't get cable, is Idol Gives Back, part two. No word that I can find on a theme, but if last year was any indication, the field will be wide open as long as the lyrics are "inspirational."

Tuesday is the regular performance episode. Wednesday will be the extravaganza where you will be asked to pitch in your pennies. The regular execution, though, will be on Thursday, from 8-9 p.m. unlike last year when they kept us waiting for two days only to be told everybody was escaping until the double kill the following week.

Thank you Nigel for the heads up.

So set those VCRs accordingly.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

the elite 8: a SIMULBLOG!...

It's getting to that tough part of any season. We've gotten to know them, care about them and, in some cases, like them, and yet one of them has to go.

It's killing night. Because THIS is American Idol.

And this is a SIMULBLOG, where I'm typing as fast as the law allows while the action is unfolding live and in person on the East Coast. And I'll be hitting that fabulous "publish" button at every significant break. So if you want to be totally spoiled, stick around and bathe in the spoilage. If you want to stay pure and chaste, chaste yourself away, but come back once you've been de-chasted and dish with the rest of us.

Because the show's about to start!

After the introductions, the kids start the show with 9 to 5. And here I was expecting Islands in the Stream. I like how it seems the kids - especially the guys - have decided they are stuck doing the pointy poses, so they may as well just have fun with them. They don't sing all that well as a group, but they make me chuckle, so I love them.

And in no time, we're being sold Burger King products and finding out that Ford is giving back to Idol as Idol Gives Back.

We get a mini AI Rewind of the night before. And the sofa means safety. The stools are bad.

Michael Johns is called to the stage. He gets reminded of his reviews. And he's told he's safe.
David Archuleta comes center stage without being summoned. He says the song he sang "had a great message." You like that don't you David. He's sent to the safety sofa quickly.
Carly Smithson is next. Ryan teases her with the stools before sending her to the sofa.

The stools are empty after the first round.


I am not even going to mention how much I detest these phone calls.

It's time for The Clark Brothers to sell their new CD, which, after their appearance here will probably hit #1. I didn't watch the band show that they won, but I already really really like the them, especially as instrumentalists.

The kids are playing basketball in the crappy Ford commercial. You have to see it.

And they go right to more executions. Carly lays into Simon for the wardrobe comment. Good girl.

David Cook is told to come on down. He says the medical stories were blown out of proportion and he's fine. He's sent to the sofa just to be sure.

Ramiele Malubay is called to the stage. She looks scared. With good reason. She's sent to the first stool.

Kristy Lee Cook shows up. She says she has her stool reserved. And Ryan obliges by sending her to sit next to Ramiele.

It's time to catch up with Idol Alumni. It's Bucky!! It's Phil Stacey! It's Bo Bice!! I am totally liking this part of the results shows!

Syesha Mercado is called to the stage. She must be safe. And she is.
Brooke White and Jason Castro arrive arm in arm. They are reminded of the songs they chose. Brooke is told she's joining the bad people. Jason heads for the couch.

We're reminded to start saving our dimes for next week's Idol Gives Back. And it's time for Dolly Parton to sing. She's got Jesus. And Gravity. And a choir backing her up. I won't sing. I'll let you listen for yourself. Or not.

These one-hour results shows are killing me.

The three rejects stand with Ryan on the stage. One of them gets sent back to the safety of the good sofa. And after some unnecessary banter, Ryan lets us know that's Brooke.

Ramiele and Kristy give big hugs. Kristy is safe and Ramiele is told she's through. And there are big big tears.

Ramiele watches her journey to the sound of Ruben. She has so much potential. I'm glad she's on the tour.

Good luck Ramiele!

parton me while we sing dolly...

It was no April Fool's joke that the nine remaining Idols were given the task of picking through the Dolly Parton songbook. And the result? Another night of pleasantry: nothing extraordinary but nothing near the level of wretched either.

Mediocrity bores me.

And while I appreciate the work of Dolly Parton, both as a songwriter and as an artist, I can't help but believe that the more broad theme of country music would have suited the final nine much better. And it's not like Ms. Parton couldn't have lent her considerable knowledge of the country music industry. The woman's been a staple of the field for a century. Or so.

But they didn't, so here are my thoughts on the night, a day late but as usual, from worst to first.

Ramiele Malubay (Do I Ever Cross Your Mind). Once again Ramiele turns in an unmemorable performance, at times drowned out by the band in the rafters, at times off tune and often wavering on those sustained notes that plague her. I don't know how she has escaped the bottom so often, but her time may be up after this.

Brooke White (Jolene). Simon was right when he told Brooke that she seemed to be just trying to get through the song, one of Dolly's most wrenching. It was performed sufficiently - I like Brooke when she's playing the guitar - but it left me empty, a strange departure for Brooke.

Jason Castro (Travelin' Thru). I have to give the guys a little latitude with this theme, but Jason continues to disappoint me with his sleepwalking versions over the past couple of weeks. Like Brooke, it was not bad. It was just 90 seconds of time that I don't remember.

Syesha Mercado (I Will Always Love You). When contestants become so predictable that we can review them before they sing, it's usually a sign their time is up. Who didn't expect this song from this girl? And ever idealistic, I had hopes at first that Syesha would stick to the Dolly version and not fall into the Whitney trap. Alas. Good front part, disappointing back part and a note overheld so long that it caused the show to run long.

Kristy Lee Cook (Coat of Many Colors). Kristy gets points for the bare feet. I think most people expected Kristy to thrive in her genre theme, and while Simon thought her flag-waving performance from the week before was better, I agree with Paula that it was her best. She was smart not to try to embellish with vocal acrobats a song whose lyrics tell a sad story. And while she may find herself singing into the credits tonight, she will go out on a high note.

Carly Smithson (Here You Come Again). This is one of the Dolly songs that I really like, and part of its appeal is the tempo. Carly takes the tempo waaaaaay down, which throws me a bit and after a few more listens I still don't really like, but she has made strides in correcting, at the suggestion of the judges, her facial expressions. Now work on the wardrobe, says Simon. Find sleeves, say I. I'm not a tattoo bigot, but even after all these weeks, I still find myself so distracted by them that I forget she's singing. And if I am doing it, I'm sure I'm not alone.

Michael Johns (It's All Wrong, But It's All Right). Michael gets the pimp spot, but because of an hour show, countless commercials, pointless banter and Syesha's five-minute glory note, his performance and post-performance moment feels too rushed. The judges gush, however briefly, over his bluesy interpretation of Dolly's song, calling it his best to date. I have heard him better, but on this night, pretty good is, well, pretty good.

David Cook (Little Sparrow). David Cook takes a moment pre-performance to satisfy all of those naysayers who are accusing him of stealing arrangements, and he takes pains to inform us that he arranged the version of Dolly's song by himself. He then turns in a heartfelt, acoustic version of a song I don't know very well in the style we've come to expect from him. And thankfully he is fine after a health scare.

David Archuleta (Smoky Mountain Memories). Archuleta seems to be off one week, on the next. This was beautiful, easily the best performance of the night. And his stage presence and facial expressions seem to be improving weekly.

So now the tough part. The group is clearly dividing itself into the contenders and the rest, led by the guys and Brooke, leaving any one of the others as the dispensable kid, so on a night when all things are pretty much equal, it's hard to pick the obvious boot.

So I'll toss a coin.

Who I want: Syesha, Ramiele, Kristy Lee
Who should: Syesha, Ramiele, Jason
Who will: Syesha, Ramiele, Jason

And Ramiele, you've slipped under the eviction radar for weeks, so be grateful for the time you've had. I had such high expectations for you, but you just didn't live up to them.

So who's in your bottom three?

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

hello dolly!...

It's Dolly night for the remaining nine, and it's an open thread for all of us to critique the kids, the theme, the judges, Ryan, the commercials, or pretty much anything.

I'll be back tomorrow to offer mine, but until then, have at it...

CAUTION: song spoilers...

Don't read if you don't wanna know.

According to TMZ:

Archuleta: Appalacian Memories
Syesha: I Will Always Love You (how did we know this?)
Carly: Here You Come Again
Kristy: Coat of Many Colors (Or Cat of Many Lives, perhaps?)
Ramiele: Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?
Michael Johns: It's All Wrong, But It's All Right
Jason Castro: Travelin' Thru
Brooke: Jolene
David Cook: Little Sparrow

It's doubtful that this is performance order, especially considering that David Cook had the pimp spot last week. If I come across that lineup, I will edit this post.

Happy Idol Night!


Thanks Rob for the awesome image!