American Idol 2007

Posted on May 2nd, 2007 in American Idol by EngineerBoy

5/23/2007 – Grand Finale, the New American Idol Is Named!

Well, tonight I felt like I entered some kind of alternative dimension where American Idol didn’t suck. At the end of the show we all sat back in awe at the…magnificence…of tonight’s production. I’ll cover the details of tonight’s excellent show down below, but first the results – the new American Idol for 2007 is:

  • Jordin Sparks: Thank you, American voting public, for making the overwhelmingly correct choice!!! We’ve watched Jordin grow from a wide-eyed, raw talent into a mature, composed, humble superstar. Congratulations Jordin!!!!

And Blake showed real class tonight, and seemed genuinely happy for Jordin when her name was called instead of his. Nice job, Blake!

And the show itself was simply terrific. There were two clunker notes in the show – Gwen Stefani and Bette Midler, but other than that it was a stellar production. Gwen Stefani once again lip-synced her way through a completely lame and pointless song, made even more egregious by the fantastic nature of the rest of the night’s performances. And poor Bette Midler just simply doesn’t have a voice any more – we couldn’t watch her whole song and had to fast foward through it on TiVo due to our hearts breaking.

But other than those two the rest of the performances were almost overwhelmingly good. Kelly Clarkson rocked out an intersting, edgy number, the top six men returned to the stage in matching white suits and sang a medley of songs with none other than Smokey Robinson! Later, the top six girls came out and sang a medley with none other than Gladys Knight!! I was in heaven!!!

Then, in a wonderful bit of creative thinking (not to mention artistic risk) by Idol producers, Blake Lewis traded beats and lines with the original beat-boxer himself, Doug E. Fresh, tripping to “The Show”. Now, this could have sucked and fallen flat, but they rocked the house with a fantastic interplay, strong rapping, great beat-boxing, and an overwhelmingly funky performance!

Then we had a classy performance of “For Once In My Life” by the incomparable Tony Bennett. Mr. Bennett’s voice is not quite the lyrical instrument it used to be, but he arranged the song so that he could reach the highs and lows, and then went out with a big, big, finish. Fantastic!!

Melinda Doolittle then did a commercial for God with BeBe and CeCe Winans. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Carrie Underwood did a moving version of “I’ll Stand By You”, and there was a cheerful and bouncy song by the African Children’s Choir.

Then, in another creative and risky move, the Idol producers let Sanjaya Malakar take the stage one more time, to sing “You Really Got Me” accompanied by Joe Perry of Aerosmith on-stage. They even had crying-Sanjaya-fan-girl back in the audience, and she was crying with gusto. Sanjaya still can’t sing worth a damn, but the performance sure was fun!

And then things took a very surreal and potentially dangerous turn. Last year it was an unexpected performance by Prince, but this year topped that both in risk and in impact. The words that came out of Ryan Seacrest’s mouth were (I kid you not):

“With John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”, please welcome Green Day.”

I had to pause the TiVo and rewind to be sure I’d heard that correctly. First of all, the concept of that song on this show was almost too much for my mind to comprehend. I mean, if there’s a sacred text in my household, it contains this song as the Book of John. And one of the verses is:

“They keep you doped with religion and sex and TV, and you think you’re so clever and classless and free, but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see…”

Now, those are powerful lyrics, and certainly not ones that I would consider to be Idol-friendly. And having Green Day cover it, what the hell was that all about? Afterwards I discovered that they covered it for an upcoming Amnesty International album to raise awareness about Darfur, but at the time it seemed like a chaotically random choice to me. I mean, Green Day, the pop-punk-emo-goth-rock pissants covering this great and mighty John Lennon gospel? But you know what, they did a damn fine job with it…damn fine. The lead singer even appeared to sing the F-words, and they simply muted his mic for those two intervals. It’s always a nice feeling to have one’s mind opened and one’s perceptions altered so dramatically, especially for a crusty old fart like me, where it doesn’t happen too often (because I’m so right about so many things to begin with, dont’cha know).

Taylor Hicks then came out and did a nice Taylor Hicks number, complete with Ray Charles-y keyboard riffs, funky-white-boy-dancing, and harp blowing. Jordin Sparks and Ruben Studdard then did a nice duet.

The Twilight Zone nature of the evening was topped off by a medley of songs from the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, performed by Idols past and present. It was again a very gutsy move by the Idol producers, and the Idols did a fantastic job of making the songs fresh while not ruining them, a neat trick indeed.

So, overall the show was fantastic, the naming of Jordin Sparks as the new Idol made us ecstatic, and American Idol Season Six went out with quite a bang. The only thing missing from tonight’s show was that with all the Beatles songs I was expecting to see Sir Paul McCartney and/or Ringo Starr make an appearance, but they didn’t. However, the fact that the remaining Fab Two and the Lennon and Harrison families gave Idol the rights to use the songs is promising for next year, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

THIS is why I watch this show. See you next season!

5/22/2007 – The Top 2 Perform!

Tonight Blake and Jordin performed three songs. The first was the Idol’s choice of any song including those sung previously, the second was the Idol’s choice of any song they had not sung before on Idol, and the third was the (ugh) winner of the Idol “songwriting” competition. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Jordin Sparks: Her first song was “Fighter” by Christina Aquilera, a song of female empowerment, and Jordin sang it with just the right amounts of sass and ability. Her second song was “Broken Wing” by Martina McBride, another female empowerment song, and Jordin did a nice job with what could have been an overblown ballad, but wasn’t. Her third song (which Blake will also sing as his last song) was “This Is My Now” by the winner’s of Idol’s songwriting competition, Jeff Peabody and Scott Krippayne. The song is a quite forgettable pop confection, but Jordin sang it with power and emotion, and her heart-wrenching finish left us (and her, at left) in tears. Amazing.

Facing Elimination:

  • Blake Lewis: For his first song Blake re-sang “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, which I thought was a surprisingly poor choice – I would have picked “Time of the Season” to redo if I were him. Anyway, he did an okay job with the song, but nothing special. His second song was “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon Five, which was a trite and boring song and performance. He finished by covering “This Is My Now”, and his performance was simply flat, boring, forgettable, and should lose him the title.

Simon summed it up tonight when he said to Jordin, “…this is a singing competition and you just wiped the floor with Blake on that song…” after her performance of “This Is My Now”. And she did, as she has done all season. However, Melinda also always sang better than Blake and he outlasted her with his…appeal? I’ve never “gotten” Blake, and his beatboxing and androgynous, frat-goth style has always rubbed me the wrong way – but I will say that he has always been personable. Jordin, on the other hand, seems like that rarest of all gems – the truly nice artiste. So many people with god-given talent assume an air of superiority, but Jordin seems genuinely humble while still being absolutely sure of her talent. There is no question that she *should* be the next American Idol. We’ll see tomorrow if the universe has other plans.

On a related note I simply have to complain about the worst aspect of each American Idol season. Things start well with the cattle-car auditions and the long-suffering judges assessing a parade of varying talents. We then move to Hollywood with the marathon sessions, group songs, and genre changes. Then we get to the Top 24 on the big stage, and the stretch run starts with the most talented singers. They compete head-to-head every week, meeting big-name mentors, singing songs both in and out of their comfort zones, refining their performing skills over the brutal weeks and weeks. And then we finally get to the end – two left standing – winner take all – each sings three songs and it’s their time to shine, their last chance to prove themselves. And for the last song of the year, after all that striving, struggling, effort, blood, sweat, and tears, when they should be singing the strongest and best possible song, the Idol produces foist on them (and us) some lame-ass, watered-down, cheese-filled, soft-rock, tuneless, tasteless, forgettable “song” that Idol owns the rights to so as to try to maximize their revenue on the winner’s first single release.

Listen, Idol producers, all year I dread that final song. It turns me off to the whole concept, knowing that you guys sabotage the entire competition by having the final song be some crappy ass song that you happen to own. The last song of the year should be the biggest and best song of the year, and you literally cut the legs out from under your own show and dissipate any sense of a Grand Finale with your crappy, cop-out final song. Please change this next year.

Thanks for listening.

5/16/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Tonight we get down to the final two, but first we had performances and blah, blah, blah. It was nice to see Elliot “Toothsome” Yamin back for a performance, but the song he sang was boooooring, but he sounded good. Then a very blase and boring performance by Puce 12, er, I mean Maroon 5. And finally to the eliminations. The first to be saved was Jordin Sparks, deservedly so. That left Melinda Doolittle and Blake Lewis in the bottom two, which was also correct, in my estimation. And then, against all common sense and judgment, the one who got sent home was:

  • Melinda Doolittle: OMFG, what the hell is wrong with the voting public?? I like Blake, he’s a’ight, and his presence in the top four or five would have been deserved. But in the top two? Puhleeeze. Melinda is orders of magnitude a better singer and performer than Blake is or ever will be. He’s got a decent voice and a cute schtick with the beatboxing, but Melinda has the god-given pipes of a star singer. Sigh.

Well, the finale is set – Jordin versus Blake. It *should* be a no-brainer and Jordin should be the next American Idol, but we live in a country that re-elected Dubya, so one never knows, does one?

5/15/2007 – The Top 3 Perform!

Tonight each Idol performed three songs. The first was selected by one of the judges, the second was selected by the producers, and the third was selected by the Idol. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Jordin Sparks: Her first song was “Wishing on a Star” by Rose Royce, selected for her in an incredible act of sabotage by Simon Cowell. The song itself sucked, but Jordin did the best under the circumstances. Afterwards Simon tried to blame the arrangement, but it was obviously just a bizarrely inappropriate and terrible song choice by Cowell. Her second song was “She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer, selected for her by the producers. Again, really a poor song choice to saddle her with, but she again put on a smile and gave an energetic and enjoyable performance. For her last song Jordin chose “I (Who Have Nothing)”, which is the song she sang earlier this season in a jaw-droppingly powerful performance. Well, she recaptured that magic and simply sang a heartbreaking and perfect rendition. Wow!

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Melinda Doolittle: Her first song was “I Believe in You and Me” by Whitney Houston, selected for her by Randy Jackson. I hate Whitney and find all her songs to be trite and hollow, and this was no exception. Melinda did a good job, though. Her second song was “Nutbush City Limits” by Ike and Tina Turner, selected by the producers in what I at first thought was another act of sabotage, but after she channeled her inner Tina into a rocking, raucous, strutting, snarling, gritty, bluesy performance, I realized they had picked a perfect song for her, and she sang the HELL out of it! For her last song Melinda chose “I’m A Woman” by many different artists, my favorite being Maria Muldaur, and put on another strutting, snarling, provocative performance.

Facing Elimination:

  • Blake Lewis: His first song was “Roxanne” by the Police, selected for him by Paula Abdul. Throughout the competition I’ve noticed a Sting vibe from Blake, and now was his chance to leverage it. He did an okay job in what was basically a Sting impression – not bad, but nothing memorable. His second song was “This Love” by Maroon 5, selected for him by the producers. This song was right up his alley and he did a really good job with it. For his last song Blake selected “When I Get You Alone” by Robin Thicke, which proves that whatever talent Blake has, song selection isn’t it. Why pick a lame-ass song by a third-rate pseudo-crooner when you have the entire library of available popular music from which to choose?? In any case, he moued his way through it in a very flat, boring, and pointless performance of a forgettable song, almost assuredly sealing Blake’s fate as this week’s loser.

Strange, odd, and questionable song selections abounded tonight, by the judges, the producers, and the Idols themselves. These last few nights of the Idol season are both the most exciting (because of the narrowed field of contenders) and the most frustrating (because of the awkward song selections as the Idol producers position themselves for producing Idol albums with crappy new songs). I always dread the finale week, because that’s when we get treated to the horrible new “songs” that the Idol producers have dredged up for the finalists to sing/record. It would be a treat this year if they let the Idols perform in the finale by singing songs that are worthy of such a momentous singing occasion, but I doubt it will happen. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing who wins, even if it means I have to listen to two songs with a 100% chance of sucking.

5/9/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Tonight we cut down to three, but first the fluff and filler. A pre-recorded performance by Pink, where her voice was barely audible, which was strange as we’ve heard her sing live before and she’s pretty good. Barry Gibb also performed, and he was just terrible – what’s with his teeth? They made him talk funny, they made him sing funny, not that it was the only problem – his voice was quite creaky and croaky.

In any case, onto the eliminations. First to be saved was Jordin, which was a’ight with us. Second to be saved was Melinda, also as it should be. That left LaKisha and Blake, and the one who went home was:

  • LaKisha Jones: Well, I think the Idol voters got LaKisha and Blake in the wrong order, but I think she would have been gone next week regardless.

She did “Staying Alive” as her goodbye song, which was fantastically appropriate, particularly given her life as a single mother before Idol. We love LaKisha and wish her all the best, and she sang out with style. Next week are the top three – Jordin, Melinda, and Blake!

5/8/2007 – The Top 4 Perform!

Barry Gibb was this week’s mentor, and his catalog is filled with beautiful, iconic, and challenging singer’s songs, so the Idols have their work cut out for them this week. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Jordin Sparks: Her first song was “To Love Somebody”, and she did an excellent job. In fact, during rehearsals Barry Gibb said, “I know a couple hundred people have sung this song, but I haven’t heard a greater version than Jordin’s”. And he was right, she nailed it. Her second song was “Woman In Love” written for Barbra Streisand by Barry Gibb. Ms. Streisand has one of the purest, clearest, most beautiful voices in history, so Jordin had her work cut out for her, but she sang the HELL out of it, simply jaw-dropping and goose-bump-inducing. Now, I rarely comment on the judges here, but none of them loved her performance and I have to say I have no idea what they were listening to. In fact, I’m finally going to predict a winner – Jordin Sparks will be the next American Idol.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Melinda Doolittle: Her first song was “Love You Inside and Out”, and she delivered a professional performance, but with no real passion or entertainment value, very much going through the motions. Her second song was the hauntingly beautiful “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”, and she again did a technically good job, but her phrasing and timing were just awkward, and detracted from the beauty of the song. This one cries out for a singer to just sing the melody with emotion, and she chose to scat and jump around. Overall her two performances are good enough to return next week, and she’ll probably be runner-up this year.
  • LaKisha Jones: Her first song was the iconic “Staying Alive”. She slowed down the tempo, and it just flat out did not work. Her voice was big and strong as usual, but the rendition simply had no style and wasn’t entertaining. Her second song was “Run to Me”, and it was simply a boring love ballad that she belted/shouted with no real emotion or beauty. She still showed her big voice, but my prediction for her this year overall is third place.

Facing Elimination:

  • Blake Lewis: His first song was “You Should Be Dancing”, and his schtick is really starting to wear thin. First of all, he looked like a member of Sgt. Peppers Foppish Dorks Club Band, and his gratuitious beat-boxing is just played out. The sad part is that he can really sing, and if he’d just sing, then he could be a singer, but it looks like what he wants to be is a latter-day Michael Winslow (he was the black dude who made all the weird sound effects in “Police Academy”, heard from him lately?). His second song was the obscure “This Is Where I Came In”, and Blake had the opportunity to make the song his own, as nobody has really heard the original, but what he did was continue his tiresome scatting and beat-boxing and just bored me to tears. On top of that, he looked like the bastard love child of Wally Cleaver and Andy Dick. The boy can sing, and I wish he would, but I don’t think he’ll get another chance, other than his farewell song because based on his songs tonight, he’s gone.

Well, there you have it – hard predictions that they’ll finish in this order (from first to fourth): Jordin Sparks, Melinda Doolittle, LaKisha Jones, and Blake Lewis. Remember, you read it here first.

On another note, I have to point out a couple of unsung heroes from American Idol – namely Ryan Seacrest and the band. When we first started watching Idol, I found Seacrest to be an annoying dork, but over the years he has proven himself to be engaging, witty, emotional, and confident enough to be the ringmaster for the circus that is American Idol. He’s so smooth, but not fake, and he really seems to connect and care about the contestants, even during the grueling auditions when he has to get in the faces of the winners and the losers and engage them for the cameras, even if they’ve just come from having their lifelong dreams squashed.

And the band, they are simply amazing. The repertoire of songs and styles that they have to cover every week is astonishing, and the fact that you never think about them (because of them making a mistake, or overshadowing the singers, etc.) means that they are constently fabulous. Even when they come to the front of the stage to accompany the singers, they are professional, talented, and know that they’re job is to support and enhance the contestants, not to shine themselves. Bravo to the band.

So, tune in tomorrow when one goes home and we’re left with the Top 3!

5/2/2007 – Elimination Round, Two Have to Go!

There was a lot of filler tonight, including a performance by some former Vienna Boy’s Choir castrati named Robin Thicke. After doing a little research into his lineage, I can tell you that Robin is as powerful, talented, and emotional a singer as his dad Alan was an actor (eh?). Bon Jovi also performed, some song I’ve never heard that reminded me in more ways than one of Kiss’s “Beth”.

In any case, after combining last week’s and this week’s votes, the two who got eliminated were:

  • Phil Stacey: Sort of a shame after last night’s strong performance, but when considering his entire oeuvre, no argument from me. The picture at left was right after he found out he was eliminated, and looks to me like he’s contemplating feasting on the blood of his enemies. Where’s my garlic!??!? On the other hand, he delivered a very strong farewell performance. Goodbye, Phil, you’ve been quite the conundrum.
  • Chris Richardson: No argument from me on him leaving this week, his boy-band schtick was getting out-classed by the rest of the strong singer/performers in the competition. Seems like a nice kid, though, and I wish him well.

Well, Phil and Chris are gone, and that feels like the right two. LaKisha and Blake were the other bottom two, meaning the top two were Melinda and Jordin. All of that sounds just about right, and I can’t wait for next week!!

5/1/2007 – The Top 6 Perform (again)!

If you recall, last week was “Idol Gives Back”, and none of the contestants were eliminated. But, the votes from last week will be added to the votes from this week, and the bottom two will be eliminated this week, putting us back on track. This week’s theme was Bon Jovi, and although I’ve never really cared for his/their music, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, a real musician, and a capable mentor for the week.

FYI, the rankings below are based solely on this week’s performance, see the end of each Idol’s review for their combined chances that include last week’s performances. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Phil Stacey: Took on “Blaze of Glory”, and delivered a powerful vocal performance. He *still* creeps me out, and this song would be the perfectly ironic Idol exit song, but it was a strong performance. Combined with his okay performance of last week, Phil should probably be safe to return.LaKisha Jones: Covered “This Ain’t A Love Song” and delivered a performance more powerful than anything we’ve seen since her audition. She blew the roof off, brought the house down, was looking and singing great, and she knew it, baby. All I can say is, amen, LaKisha, welcome back! LaKisha balanced out last week’s poor effort tonight and should be safe for this week.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Blake Lewis: Blake continues to take chances with a very beat-boxy version of “You Give Love A Bad Name”. I didn’t care for it, but it wasn’t horrible, and his unique style and continued chutzpah are refreshing. Combined with last week’s performance he should be safe.
  • Melinda Doolittle: Covered “Have A Nice Day”, and you could tell she really doesn’t have the “rock” gene, but she worked hard at it, threw in a little Tina Turner growling and strutting, and did a professional, if uninspired job. Combined with last week’s strong performance she should easily be safe this week.

Facing Elimination:

  • Jordin Sparks: Covered “Living on a Prayer”, and just was all over the place, off-key, not into the song, not selling it, no spark. However, combined with last week’s stunning performance she should be okay to return.
  • Chris Richardson: Took on “Wanted Dead or Alive”, didn’t know the freakin’ lyrics during the mentoring session, he sounded like Chris Daughtry crossed with Michael Jackson (and not in a good way). Combined with last week’s average performance Justin Timberfake may be gone this week.

So, based on the combination of last week’s performance and this week’s, I’d say Chris Richardson is definitely in the bottom two, but not sure who else to put there. Oh well, tune in tomorrow for the double-eliminations!

4/25/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Well, not exactly. Tonight Idol played a little bit of a trick on us…nobody got sent home tonight. However, tonight’s votes still count because they’re going to take this week’s votes, add them to next week’s votes, and then eliminate two, count ’em, TWO Idols next week.

Tonight was really about Idol Giving Back – a slew of stage, screen, and music stars participated, and many tragic, hopeful, and uplifting stories of poverty and disease were presented. It was actually a great humanitarian effort, and I hope this event becomes a fixture of Idol every year.

My only problem with the entire evening is that the web servers have been overloaded and I haven’t yet been able to donate. Here’s where donations are being accepted:
(877)436-5243 (877-IDOL-AID)

I’m going to keep trying until I can get through – I hope you do the same.

4/24/2007 – The Top 6 Perform!

This week was “Idol Gives Back”, where America’s TV juggernaut does a little do-gooding. FOX is donating up to $5,000,000 based on the number of votes, with taped segments of Seacrest and the judges visiting people and places in need of help. I have to say that the charitable aspects of this week’s show were blended quite smoothly (and not preachily) into the show, and some of the segments of Seacrest and the judges visiting people in need (and those who help them) were genuinely touching and heartfelt. Note that tomorrow night (Wednesday) is when we the people get to donate, so tune in and drop some largesse into the mix, and remember, it’s all about the Hamiltons (and Benjamins), baby.

In keeping with the topic of “Idol Gives Back”, tonight’s musical theme was Songs That Inspire. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Melinda Doolittle: Took on “There Will Come A Day” by Faith Hill (on a complete side note, the title of the song sounded more like a dire threat or Alec Baldwin parenting tape than an inspirational song…to get the effect, say the title while angrily shaking your fist at the heavens). Another note unrelated to singing – is there some kind of plastic surgery that heals in a week, because both Mynagirl and I noticed that Melinda’s face just looked completely different this week. As the weeks progress her look and style just get classier and more professional. And her singing tonight was…well…flawless, both technically and emotionally. She’s opening up quite a lead on the rest of the pack with her string of fantastic performances, and only Jordin seems to be following her into a higher gear.Jordin Sparks: Covered “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel”. I wasn’t familiar with the song, but she gave a nuanced, graceful, emotional performance with just a couple of sliigghtly off-kilter notes. It didn’t match her miraculous, jaw-dropping version of “I (Who Have Nothing)”, but it was close. Melinda’s pulling away, but Jordin remains right behind her, within striking distance.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Chris Richardson: Covered “Change the World” by Eric Clapton, he had a *very* rough opening bar, but he settled into a nice, smooth groove. He looked classily rumpled and struck the appropriate balance of solemnity and musicality. The vocals were a’right, nothing special, but not bad.
  • Blake Lewis: OMFG, Mr. Beatbox had the chutzpah to take on “Imagine” by John Lennon. In the history of the world there has only been one other performer who, to me, had the pedigree to cover this song. Flash back to late 2001, and we sat watching “A Tribute to Heroes”, the special commemorating those who died on 9/11. We were watching and grieving and healing, and suddenly a lone piano started with the unmistakable opening notes of “Imagine”, and it jolted me out of my reverie. Who, I wondered, was blasphemous enough to try and cover that great song? I held my breath, hoping it wasn’t somebody idiotic like Bon Jovi or Celine Dion or Michael Bolton or Elton John (well, maybe Elton could do it) or Madonna or…well, just someone unworthy. And then this creaky, cracking, world-weary voice started squawking out the song, and there alone at the piano obscured by his hat, head hung low, eyes avoiding the camera, emotion pouring out of his being, sat Neil Young – and he did that song justice and at the end I was in tears. That’s who covers this song. Not Blake Lewis on American Idol.
  • Phil “Nosferatu” Stacey: Covered “The Change”, by Garth Brooks. Phil *still* creeps me out and he *still* sings well.

Facing Elimination:

  • LaKisha Jones: Covered “I Believe” by Fantasia. You know, when LaKisha auditioned I *loved* her – she had sass and soul and a voice that just could not be denied. But as time goes on I’m finding that while she does have a fantastic voice, she seems to be missing (or failing to develop) the other aspects of an Idol star, such as style, a good sense for song selection, an ear for good arrangements, and charisma. She’s like a golfer with a huge drive but no short game – impressive, but incomplete and ultimately not enough to win.

Remember to tune in tomorrow night to help Idol give back. Seacrest said we should also tune in to see the biggest surprise in Idol history – what could it be? Everybody comes back next week, maybe? That would work, because it would sure be a downer to go through tomorrow’s show raising money and doing good only to end with killing some kid’s dreams before millions of viewers.

4/18/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Well, it finally happened – the one who left American Idol tonight was:

  • Sanjaya Malakar: absolutely no argument from me on this one, and it was about damn time, America.

In an amusing twist, during his farewall performance of “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About” he changed up the lyric to “…let’s give ’em something to talk about, other than hair…”, which I thought was a nice farewell twist for him. I’m not sorry to see him go, but I do still like the kid and hope he can parlay his je ne sais quoi into something fun for himself.

4/17/2007 – The Top 7 Perform!

This was Country “Music” week, with some country chick. To set the context for this week’s review, here’s my personal music heirarchy:

  • Funk (not disco)
  • Classic Rock
  • Soul/R&B (funky, not “Oooh Baby”)
  • 80’s Music
  • Disco
  • Zydeco
  • Oompa
  • Punk
  • Anthem Rock
  • Rap/hip-hop
  • Tibetan monks chanting
  • Classical
  • A six year old playing chopsticks
  • Emo
  • Car tires over evenly spaced rumble strips
  • A squeaky metal gate blowing in the wind
  • Jazz
  • A dog shaking off water and rattling its metal collar tags
  • A flock of arguing geese
  • A clip-clopping horse dropping road apples
  • Banshees
  • Opera
  • Caterwauling
  • Jihad ululation
  • Last row of the jet (including regular flushes)
  • Awkward silence
  • The snap of a latex glove during annual physical
  • Other people’s stupid ringtones
  • Fingernails on a blackboard
  • Static fuzz white noise when cable goes out
  • Artillery fire
  • Phlegmy coughing
  • Phone call announcing an IRS audit
  • Dentist’s drill (unanesthetized)
  • Sound system feedback (non-stylized)
  • The sound my ankle bones made grinding together when the doctor cut off the first cast in order to re-set it after I broke it and the first try wasn’t aligned correctly (also unanesthetized)
  • Country

Note that there are exceptions to the above – I love Willie Nelson and Hank Williams, and a lot of pre-1975 country music, but anything that is “new” country I loathe. Given my disgust/distaste/disdain for the genre of country “music” I feel I am unqualified to comment on the performances to any great degree, so this will be a short update. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Jordin Sparks: Sang the hell out of some country schlock.
  • Melinda Doolittle: Sang the hell out of some country schlock that she had arranged to sound almost like a soul/R&B/Aretha number, albeit with steel guitars.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Phil “Nosferatu” Stacey
  • LaKisha Jones
  • Chris Richardson
  • Blake Lewis

Facing Elimination:

  • Sanjaya Malarkey: Back at the bottom where he belongs, and all is right with the world. Special Dishonorable Mention to his “Aunt Sanjemima” look, pictured at left.

Country Week is over, thank ye gods. Let us pray that Martina McBride has the flu and can’t perform tomorrow so they let Tony Bennett sing in her place.

4/11/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

J.Lo performed tonight and she at least had the guts to sing live – and it took guts to put her not-super-strong voice right out there on a show so focused on live singing. But she really has the spark and the fire to actually deliver a good *song* even if she’s not the world’s best *singer*. Nice to see a pro at work, and I like her more after her appearance here than before.

The bottom three were Chris “Timberfake” Richardson, Haley Scarnat-ho, and Phil “Nosferatu” Stacey – Chris got the quick reprieve from Governor Seacrest leaving two standing and the one who got voted off was:

  • Haley Scarnato: No argument from me on her leaving this week, it was clearly time.

Now, the picture above is clearly a cheap (and un-retouched) shot, but Haley will soon learn (if she hasn’t already) that if she chooses to live by exploiting her looks then she has to accept that her looks are fair game. I would hate to see that happen, but my fear is that in two years we’ll be seeing her last-ditch attempt to extend her 15 minutes with a Playboy shoot. Apologies to Cat Stevens for the lyrical paraphrasing, but I think Ms. Scarnato needs to heed the sage advice of “Wild World” – now that you have to leave, take good care, I know you’ll have a lot of fine things to wear, just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware.

4/10/2007 – The Top 8 Perform!

Tonight’s vocal coach was Jennifer Lopez. Curiously, nobody did any of her songs – the one who came closest was Blake Lewis who covered one of her husband’s songs. Were there rights issues to her songs or something? In any case, although I’m not a huge J-Lo fan, I have to say she was very personable and likeable and gave some very interesting and down-to-earth feedback to the performers. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Blake Lewis: Covered “I Need to Know” by Mr. Lopez. Great song choice (and great song, and I don’t particularly like latin songs). Blake showed peeks at his tattoos tonight and put on a very hot performance, definitely the best of the night.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Melinda Doolittle: Took on “Sway”, whatever the hell that is. She looked kind of like an African-American version of Mrs. Robinson in her little black cocktail dress and diamonds. Technically good vocals, but she’s not a vamp at heart and didn’t really capture the latin heat that was tonight’s target theme. However, it would have been a good performance for the female lead playing a nightclub singer in a Hope/Crosby Road movie (meaning good, just not latin-hot).
  • LaKisha Jones: Covered “Conga” by Gloria Estefan, she wore a red and black, clingy dress. Not really a singer’s song, she just seemed to step her way through it by rote, no real heat or rhythym, nothing terrible but also nothing special.
  • Chris Richardson: Took on “Smooth”, started REAL rough with him not able to handle the low key. And I never thought I’d say this, he doesn’t have nearly the funk of Rob Thomas (which is like saying somebody doesn’t have nearly the parenting skills of K-Fed – surprising to say, but actually accurate). Just a blase performance, no latin heat.
  • Phil Stacey: Covered “Maria, Maria” by the great Santana in one of his recent duets. Phil is presenting a continuing enigma…he has reasonably good vocals, but he cannot look cool or smooth no matter what he wears or does…his look alternates between Creepy Serial Killer and Dopey White Poseur. And you can’t win AI with *just* a voice.
  • Jordin Sparks: Covered “The Rhythym is Gonna Get You”. She continued tonight’s theme, which was “People Who Don’t Get The Latin Vibe Singing Latin Songs Awkwardly”. She looked pretty cute tonight, but no spark from Sparks.
  • Sanjaya Malakar: Covered “Besame Mucho”, the only one with the guts/language skills to sing in Spanish. He sat alone on the stage at the mic – hit some very poor low notes, but overall not a bad performance. In fact, he captured some of the magic from his audition performance. In fact, I’m moving him out the “Facing Elimination” category. You did it Sanjaya. Mea culpa. You deserve to be on Idol.

Facing Elimination:

  • Haley Scarnat-ho: Covered “Turn the Beat Around” – first of all she clomped around the stage like a pageant competitor counting off some hokey stage choreograpy. Absolutey NO latin-hot personality for the song, although she tried to create heat by continuing to show us all the skin she continues to show us. Here’s a tip, Haley – once the public knows you have it, hide it away and just give little peeks…much more alluring than shaking your tatas in our face week after week. Just a terrible performance. (Editor’s note: in a personally satisfying development, if I’m not mistaken, after her performance Ryan pronounced her name the way I’ve been spelling it for the last few weeks – you’re welcome, Ryan, feel free to send me a joke writers fee or something!)

Well, after all the slings and arrows I have to take it all back – Sanjaya did not suck tonight. His song choice was very nuanced – a Mexican song from the 40’s, most famously covered by the Beatles in their original auditions for record companies in the 1960’s, and his performance was not bad, with just some slight rough spots on the low notes. Classy song choice, classy performance.

That’s why I watch this show. Thanks for reminding me, Sanjaya.

Editor’s note 4/8/2007: Sorry for the delayed update, a combination of business travel and acute sinusitis delayed this review…thanks for your patience!

4/4/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Well, Tony Bennett couldn’t perform tonight – 80 years old and with the flu, too bad for all of us. Performing in his place was the incomprehensible Michael Buble, who looks like the bastard love child of Chris Farley and Rodney Dangerfield and sings like Bill Murray improvising the theme song to Star Wars. Does he really sell records?

In any case, the travesty of a mockery of a sham that is American Idol Season Six continues with the elimination of:

  • Gina Glocksen: Well, I think the tongue ring did her in, and I have to ask her, was it worth it? I will say, however, that she gave one of the more heartfelt and classy goodbye performances that I’ve experienced. While watching it I felt like she was actually *getting* the lyrics of the song she was singing…”Smile, though your heart is breaking”…and if she had performed with as much feeling last night I think she’d have been safe. Well, that’s where life experience helps. Anyway, she didn’t deserve to get eliminated while Haylaya continues to survive.

So, another week, another complete miss by the AI voting public.

Why do I watch this show??

4/3/2007 – The Top 9 Perform!

Tonight’s vocal coach was the incomparable Tony Bennett. So refreshing to have an actual singer after Gwen “LipSync” Stefani. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Melinda Doolittle: What a pro. Covered “I Got Rythym”, started soft and smooth, picked up the pace in the middle, and then went out with the big, big, big finish. Simply perfect.
  • Jordin Sparks: Covered “On A Clear Day”, about which Mr. Bennett said, “She sang very much in tune, which is rare these days.” Amen, Tony. Her outfit was sort of like a hostess at an upscale family dining chain. Her voice, however, was pure gourmet – she *got* the song, she *sang* the song, and she *sold* the song. Wow. Double wow.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Blake Lewis: Covered “Mack the Knife”. He had the appropriate look and moves of a Rat-Packer crossed with a Beat Boxer. His voice was smooth, but he didn’t seem to inhabit the song, to feel it. He performed it well, but didn’t *sell* it.
  • Phil Stacey: Took on “Night and Day”. He really struck the crooner vibe with his voice. Hit the big notes with a big voice. I liked everything about it except the creepy vibe I still get from this guy – strong performance, though.
  • Chris Richardson: Took on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” (pointer for Chris – memorize the damn lyrics before you sing for a superstar like Tony Bennett!!). Had a nice Rat-Packer-Meets-Boy-Bander look, kept the vocal gymnastics pretty much in check. Technically solid performance, but didn’t sell it or swing it.
  • Gina Glocksen: Covered “Smile”, and gave a suprisingly nuanced performance. However, the entire feel and story of the song is lost on the audience when the person singing it keeps wagging a toungue ring in our faces. A word of advice to Gina – I know you want to express yourself, but you also have to adapt to the material and the audience – take out the tongue ring next time.
  • LaKisha Jones: I’m not sure what’s going on with LaKisha – she seems to have lost her oomph and pizazz. She’s performing well technically but she’s not selling me on the performances. I’m kind of grading on a curve here, because she has a big, great voice, but she’s just not using it to the potential she showed earlier.

Facing Elimination:

  • Sanjaya Malarkey: Blah blah blah “Dancing Cheek to Cheek” blah blah blah. (Editor’s note: it doesn’t seem to matter what we write here about Sanjaya.)
  • Haley Scarnat-ho: Covered “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, which would be like Sanjaya singing “Ain’t Untalented”. Her entire act and appeal is her sleaze factor and her willingness to wear barely there outfits. This isn’t “America’s Next Top Model” or “Girls Gone Wild” and she needs to GO.

It was disheartening to see this group so starry-eyed last week with Gwen Stefani and so blase this week with the legendary Tony Bennett. I weep for the future. Why do I watch this show!??

3/28/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Well, there were no less than three travesties tonight, as follows:

  • Travesty #1: The bottom two were Chris Sligh and Haley Scarnat-ho (Phil Stacey was in the bottom three, but got the early save from Seacrest). The picture you see to the left is Haley subjugating herself to the Dark Overlords who have ensured her continued survival and Chris Sligh coming to the realization the all votes are popularity contests, and he just lost. So poor Chris S. with the angelic voice has to head home – a travesty.
  • Travesty #2: Ms. Gwen Stefani, alleged vocal coach and pop idol had the gall to LIP SYNCH her way through some cheesy number…wtf!!??!! First of all, how could the producers allow something this sacreligious on a show about LIVE SINGING!?!??!? Secondly, how could Gwen Stefani debase herself in such a fashion…is she really just a studio construct?? A travesty.
  • Travesty #3: Oh, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan…how could you? First of all, it does a disservice to American Idol to shine the spotlight on the continued (and undeserved) survival of Sanjaya, who is clearly the worst of the bunch. Secondly, it’s just not cricket to highlight one of the contestants so brazenly and publicly to the exclusion of the other contestants. Tsk, tsk, tsk on Seacrest and the Idol producers for such pandering – a travesty.

Just to clarify, when you see my predictions on this page I am not attempting to predict who will be voted off, I’m voicing my opinion of who I think deserves to be voted off. I was pretty sure that Sanjaya was going to survive another week and also pretty sure that Haley would be back to grind for us another week, although neither deserves it. And poor Chris Sligh – he didn’t deserve to go home.

Why do I watch this show??

3/27/2007 – The Top 10 Perform!

Tonight’s vocal coach was Gwen Stefani. Yawn. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Sadly there were no great performances tonight. Some were definitely better than others, but nobody shone through like a star. And it’s not that they’re all raising the bar and doing great – tonight was full of safe, boring performances. C’mon Idols, put your hearts into it every week!

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • LaKisha Jones: Took on “Let’s Dance” by Donna Summer, her performance was solid technically but I just didn’t feel any emotion or soul from her on this one, it felt like a rote performance.
  • Chris Sligh: Took on “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by the Police, he still flashes his angelic voice in some parts, but his amateur stage antics detract from the performance, and I don’t feel that he feels or even likes the song. Nothing terrible but nothing memorable, either.
  • Gina Glocksen: Covered “I’ll Stand By You”, my favorite performance of hers so far (which isn’t saying much). Her shiny, metallic outfit looked like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, George Jetson, and Alcoa and was quite distracting (and not in a good way). She definitely took her game up a notch and for that I give her props, but still not singing like a star, yet.
  • Phil Stacey: Does Phil read this site? He stayed right on target with the Serial Killer vibe I’ve been describing by covering “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, one of the all-time great stalker songs. And why shave your head if you’ve going to wear one of your grandmothers knit doilies on it? Any way, I’ll begrudgingly say that he demonstrated pretty good vocals and will probably be safe.
  • Melinda Doolittle: Melinda is sliding comfortably into the Gladys Knight category (in a good way). She covered “Heaven Knows” by Donna Summer – she might be developing a vibe that’s too old for the Idol voting public, but she did a great job with the vocals and sold the song like a pro.
  • Blake Lewis: Covered “Love Song” by the Cure, he did a great job with a quiet, torchy feel, no beat-boxing, just pure, clean haunting vocals. Didn’t care for the song, but he did a good job.
  • Jordin Sparks: Took on “Hey Baby” by No Doubt. There is no doubt that her look was distracting – gigantic hoop earrings, Pizza Hut tablecloth shirt, Japanese schoolgirl skirt, and grey Nancy Sinatra boots. She may have been trying to capture the eclectic vibe that made Gwen Stefani famous (and which I never “got”), but it just looked schizophrenic. A let down from last week’s haunting, powerful performance, this was flat, boring, hook-y tripe. Not horrible vocals, but just a mess overall.
  • Chris Richardson: Covered “Don’t Speak”, this poor boy is paralyzed. His default style is boy-band-lite, but he’s really trying to become a melodic singer but he doesn’t feel it and doesn’t get it. So he sung the notes with very little soul or style, overall boring.

Facing Elimination:

  • Sanjaya Malarkey: I loved this kid during the tryouts, but now we’re just torturing him and ourselves. Didn’t you see his faux-hawk? He’s *daring* us to send him home – he’s thumbing his nose at us and saying neener-neener. I give him props for just taking it all the way over the top with his new found infamy, but please, America, stop the insanity.
  • Haley Scarnat-ho: Covered “True Colors”, pretty good through the first two thirds, she lost the melody and finished flat, but might have been my favorite performance of hers so far, but again that’s not saying much. And her style holds true to form – tonight she looked like the most expensive hooker at the Red Roof Inn bar.

Tonight was a let-down after last week – this group is like a cantakerous car engine…it keeps running, but it won’t catch fire and hit on all cylinders. Nobody was exciting – Blake probably had the strongest performance.

  • Special Dishonorable Mention goes out the Sanjaya’s horrible Medusa-like faux hawk. This picture doesn’t do justice to the ridiculous ugliness of his coiff, which was pulled so tightly it made him forget his lyrics at one point.

3/21/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Tonight the bottom two were Chris Richardson and Stephanie Edwards – again, what show is the American voting public watching? Both of these two are clearly better singers/performers than Sanjaya, Haley, Phil, and Gina. But there were Chris and Stephanie, neither of whom were good enough to win, both of whom were good enough to come back next week, and the one who went home was:

  • Stephanie Edwards: She seemed genuine and likeable, and while her voice wasn’t a powerful instrument it was still pleasant and seemed to have potential. I would not have been sorry to see her go in later rounds, but having her leave tonight was really a bad choice by us, the voting public.

So, come on, people, make sure to vote for your favorites and remember that this is a singing competition, and while part of a singer’s talent is in their look, personality, and performance, the singing is the key.

3/20/2007 – The Top 11 Perform!

Tonight was the Top 11, and the theme was the British Invasion. The coaches were Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits and Lulu of “To Sir, With Love” fame. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Blake Lewis: Wow, the Human Beatbox BROUGHT it tonight! He took on “Time of the Season” by the Zombies, and he mixed in a light sprinkling of beatboxing and a big dose of controlled, mysterious singing. Excellent performance!
  • Jordin Sparks: Covered “I Who Have Nothing”, a big, BIG song. I was skeptical that she didn’t have the life experience to sing such a raw, emotional piece – she’s only 17. But SHE DID IT! Oh my god, she sang the HELL out of it and actually brought tears to my eyes. Ladies and gentlemen, a star is born!

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Chris Richardson: Covered “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” and Peter Noon’s advice was right on – skip the vibrato and sing the melody, which Chris has never done before. But tonight he did it, and he has a beautiful voice. Controlled and rich, it was nice to hear finally.
  • Stephanie Edwards: Took on “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”, which started with a big dramatic intro by the band which she needed to follow up with big, dramatic vocals, but her voice was tentative and shaky. I felt she didn’t like the song or really know what it was about. It was reasonably good from a technical perspective, but it was flat in parts, and she just didn’t sell it.
  • LaKisha Jones: Covered “Diamonds Are Forever”, quiet and sultry, but no real soul or committment to the song that I felt. It was a reasonably good technical performance, but no oomph, and quite frankly a couple of flat parts. I don’t think she trusted the song, and it showed.
  • Gina Glocksen: Attempted to take on “Paint It Black” by the Stones, tried to “update” the melody – I just don’t buy her as the tough chick, it wasn’t horrible, but the rest of the group raised the bar and while Gina did good, others are doing GREAT.
  • Chris Sligh: Covered “She’s Not There”, good song for his voice, did great on the buildup, mysterious and torch-y, made a mis-step on the big refrain, he started shouting instead of projecting. Allllllmost great, but still good.
  • Melinda Doolittle: Took on “As Long As He Needs Me”, not familiar with the song – not sure that out of the entire ouvre of the British Invasion I would have picked something so obscure, no way for the audience to participate in the song. Kind of a torch song, could be from a modern-day Disney musical-cartoon, it was just that cheesy. Terrible song choice, workmanlike vocals, but absolutely no spark or personality.

Facing Elimination:

  • Haley Scarnato: Covered “Tell Him”. Oof, hated her ho’ look – it’s called a bra, honey. She demonstrated workmanlike vocals, but nothing special, kind of screechy, and she really went out of her way to jiggle her garbanzos at every opportunity. However, even their constant aerobatics were not enough to distract from her blase performance.
  • Phil Stacey: Took on “Tobacco Road”. He still exudes Serial Killer to me, has anybody checked his basement or crawl space? Anyway, tried to do a Chris Daughtry-like rocking number, cavorting around the stage holding the mic stand, he just looked like a shaved, fey nerd trying to pretend to be a rocker. Just a silly performance, some good notes, but he sounded ridiculous in the ultra-low parts.
  • Sanjaya Malakar: Took on the Kinks “You Really Got Me Going”, he just doesn’t have the rough, raw edge to pull off a song like this. He moued around on the stage like, well, like an idiot. He had one quiet part where I thought he might break on through to the other side and turn it around, but he lost it in an ineffective screech and finished clumsily.

I’m happy to say that we finally have an Idol competition this year. Up until this week the overall quality of performances has just been boring and trite, with some flashes of greatness. Tonight the bar really got raised, and not by LaKisha or Melinda as one would expect, but by Blake and Jordin who really took things to the next level. Finally something to get excited about this year!

3/14/2007 – Elimination Round, One Has to Go!

Why do I watch this show? There they were on the stage together, Brandon and Sanjaya – neither are great singers, but Brandon has clearly outperformed Sanjaya on the big stage. Sanjaya continues to look embarrassed about his inexplicable survival, as well he should. But in the end the one who got let go was:

  • Brandon Rogers: Well, he certainly wasn’t going to win, and he was in my bottom three this week, but, again, he was better than Sanjaya. The image to the left is Brandon’s face when he hears that Sanjaya’s deal with the devil remains in force.

So, another travesty by the American voting public as Sanjaya lives another day. Poor kid, it has to actually be painful for him at this point. And the sad part is I really liked this kid at the beginning, but he just hasn’t ever regained the charm and skill he demonstrated in his audition.

3/13/2007 – The Top 12 Perform!

Here we go, the Top 12 on the big stage, with Diana Ross as the voice coach this week. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Melinda Doolittle: Sang “Home”, from The Wiz, which I don’t really know and there are certainly much better songs in the Diana Ross ouvre she could have chosen. Her voice is good, strong, and big. She sings like she has every right to cover a Diana Ross song, even if that song is boring and forgettable. Good, solid performance, but such a nothing song that overall the performance was smaller than her actual voice.
  • LaKisha Jones: Took on “God Bless the Child”, originally a Billie Holliday song, then done by La Ross in Lady Sings the Blues, so LaKisha took on two legends here. She’s doing good with flashes of great – not quite the polish to compare to Billie or Diana, but then again even thinking to compare her to them says a lot. She is head and shoulders above most of the other Idol contestants – I’m looking forward to a potential Diva Showdown between her and Melinda in the finale.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Chris Sligh: Covered “Endless Love”, surprising choice, some kind of weird arrangement and rearrangement of the chords…making it, well, discordant…he still has a good voice, with brief glimpses of his angel-voice, but mostly it was hidden behind his…overt ecletic focus. He needs to pick a song with a strong, well-known melody and then just SING the %^$#%$ thing as written. He’s not an arranger and that’s not what this show is about.
  • Gina Glocksen: Sang “Love Child”, in the clips working with La Ross she seemed to actually be singing it quite beautifully, while on the stage tonight she was shouting and flat – is the new, big stage and crowd just overwhelming the contenders tonight? Really flat and screechy, and maybe some audio problems with AI feed (or my TV or cable), she just was screeching like a banshee – very un-Diana-Ross-like.
  • Phil Stacey: Covered “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, and I have to tell you – some people can pull off the bald look, it makes them look tough and charismatic (like the dude from The Shield), but on him it looks like got on the wrong side of the Kremlin. That being said, this may have been his strongest performance yet. I still don’t see him winning, but he sang strong and hit the chord changes like a pro tonight.
  • Blake Lewis: Covered “You Keep Me Hanging On”, tried to modernize it, overall was boring. His voice was technically good, but no soul, sort of like Michael Bolton (who is known around here as the Notorious NTAC). Very mechanical, no heart, no soul, just sort of blah. Not horrible and he’ll probably be back.
  • Stephanie Edwards: Took on “Love Hangover”, starting slow and sultry, very nice. Slightly flat on the big notes, and I kept waiting for the disco break, but she kept it as a torch song and never took it to the disco beat part, which felt like a tease and a letdown. Good performance, should definitely be back next week.
  • Chris Richardson: Sang “The Boss”, poor guy, just not nearly the voice or the charisma for the song, or quite frankly for the Top 12. He’s a poor man’s Timberlake with one difference…say what you will about JT, that boy can sing. This guy can not suck for short periods of time, but not for a whole song, he just doesn’t have the game. Not horrible, just boring and forgettable.
  • Jordin Sparks: Covered “If We Hold On Together” (what? I never heard of it, why pick this rarity from the splendorous catalogue of Diana Ross?!?). Nice, clear voice at the start, but the song sounds like it’s one of those crappy Grammy winning songs from a Disney cartoon. It doesn’t matter that her voice is not bad, the song is sooo boring that I can barely restrain myself from using TiVo’s fast forward to end the misery. I like her, and her voice is good, she should be back next week, but please get some help in picking songs!

Facing Elimination:

  • Brandon Rogers: He took on “Can’t Hurry Love”, which I love, and simply massaccred it. I don’t know if it was the big stage or the big shoes he was filling with his cover, but his voice was tiny and scared and shaky and I’m not sure that he actually hit any of the notes. Oh, and he did some simply terrible stage dancing during the break.
  • Haley Scarnato: Took on “Missing You”, which is a really a singer’s song, started HORRIBLY off pitch and stayed that way…and what was the nighty she was wearing? Shrill and shrieky instead of smooth and powerful, forgot the damn words and then REALLY lost the melody and tried to shout it back, just a terrible performance. The finish was delicately and nicely done, but didn’t save the performance.
  • Sanjaya Malakar: Covered “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, and there was indeed no mountain high enough to hide his hideous new look (hair permed and curled, and wearing earrings in each ear??? WTF!??!??). Thankfully, the mountains did not echo his horrific performance so we only had to hear it once. Please, please, please, America, send this guy home already!.

Looks like it’s becoming a two diva race with LaKisha and Melinda – will the rest be able to catch them before they break away from the pack? I hope so, I’d like this competition to start getting more exciting!!

3/8/2007 – Four More Eliminations

Why do I watch this show? There they were on the stage together, Sanjaya and Sundace – neither are great singers, but Sundance has clearly outperformed Sanjaya on the big stage. So Seacrest of course drags out the final elimination until “after the break”, and when we get back he tells Sundance the he’s going home, and Sanjaya is safe for another week. Sanjaya is actually starting to look embarrassed about his continued survival, as well he should. Here’s the final butcher’s bill for tonight:

  • Antonella Barba: Finally!
  • Sabrina Sloan: No argument on this one.
  • Jared Cotter: No argument here, either.
  • Sundance Head: In and of itself, Sundance getting eliminated isn’t a miscarriage of justice. But when it came down to him versus Sanjaya, Sundance should have gone through. Please, America, send Sanjaya home.

3/7/2007 – The Top 8 Women Perform

Well, we finally have our breakout Idol contestant for 2007 – it’s Melinda Doolittle. Stylish but not glamorous, pretty but not stunning, charming but not phony, confident but not arrogent, and with a set of pipes like a church organ played by Billy Preston (that means good). Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Melinda Doolittle: In her breakout performance she covered the Peggy Lee song I’m A Woman (also famously covered by Bette Midler). It’s a big, bold, brassy, singer’s song and Melinda sang the HELL out of it and made it look easy. Let’s put it this way, when she finished I had to go find my socks. Her performance was the best of the night, and of the week, and quite frankly of the season. She’s a real damn singer. Look out.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Jordin Sparks: Took on Pat Benatar, Heartbreaker, she did okay but reminded me what a powerful voice Benatar has. Jordin was just a bit too weak and flat, and tried to have a “rockin” attitude, but didn’t quite pull it off. She finished strong – overall a workmanlike job, but unmemorable.
  • Stephanie Edwards: She’s starting to have the sound of a real singer, but she can’t maintain the vocal quality through the entire song. The low parts sounded out of her range and she was flat on a big run near the end, but she was strong on the big parts. She was flat on the big ending notes, but it was alllmost a really good performance.
  • LaKisha Jones: She borrowed Sanjaya’s hairstyle and caught a little of his voice, too, because she started flat and tentative. She got better in the stronger parts, but still kept slipping into shouting instead of projected singing. No WOW factor, but she finished with beautiful control. I’m still waiting for LaKisha to hit on all cylinders and show us how good she can really be, because I think her voice is good enough to really wow us.
  • Gina Glocksen: Another forgettable voice, she did some supposedly rocking number, but she shouted instead of singing. At least it’s different, a rock girl song, but it did nothing for me – wasn’t horrible, though, and her original bad-rock-girl schtick will probably keep her around at least one more week.

Facing Elimination:

  • Antonella Barba: Wow she looked just like Sanjaya from last night (see below)!!! Are they the same person? They both displayed the same flat, quavery voice. Her performance was TERRIBLE tonight, off-key, and she just completely lost the melody all over the place. However, she looks the part and with her notoriety she might be back next week regardless. I will give her props for not going slutty on the style to play into her controversial pics, but please, America, put poor Antonella out of her misery, and me out of mine, okay?!??
  • Sabrina Sloan: She was flat on the opening notes, shouted in the powerful parts, but definitely looks like a pop tart. The big finish was screechy and unmemorable. She doesn’t deserve to be in the Top 12.
  • Haley Scarnato: Started off-key singing some lame anthem. Her voice was weak, and she hid behind the harmonies. Just a flat, shouting performance.

Nothing to talk about tonight but Melinda Doolittle. She has set the gold standard for this season – let’s see if the other boys and girls step up to the challenge!

On a note totally unrelated to the competition I have a question – separated at birth or lazy stylists? You tell me:

American Idol 2007 Sanjaya Malakar LaKisha Jones Antonella Barba look alike

3/6/2007 – The Top 8 Men Perform

Wow, the men were one big snoozefest tonight – there were some workmanlike performances, but nothing…nothing…that was memorable or worthy of the top 12. Here’s the dirt:

Strong Performances:

  • Sigh…nobody was strong this week…some were better than others, but nobody wow’ed.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Blake Lewis: Did some ska-like song – didn’t know the song but it was really attention grabbing and interesting. He showed a lot of style, but still needs to amp up the charisma. He’s got a good voice, a unique style, and an interesting personality, but just needs a little something extra to really stand out.
  • Chris Richardson: Known in our house as Justin Timberfake (courtesy of Mynagirl) – he started with some rough notes, had some good runs, but he seems to save his vocal talent for the gratuitous vocal gymnastics and then plods his way very boringly through the actual melody. I’d love to hear him sing a song with a strong melody without the Mariah-like contortions. Solid singing, but needs to bust out with some kind of personal style of his own.
  • Jared Cotter: Covered Stevie Wonder (If You Really Love Me) – his voice started flat and small, was better in the middle, but you could see he was straining to try and handle the song, and then he just flat lost the melody in the refrain. Good, but not memorable, and definitely didn’t make it his own.
  • Brandon Rogers: He covered “Celebrate” by Rare Earth – and he brought the rocking funk! He wasn’t completely smooth and looked like he felt a little uncomfortable with the song choice, but he worked it out and delivered a solid, unique performance.
  • Chris Sligh: He sure can sing, but WTF was that song? In a singing competition you need to either sing songs that people already know, so they can know you’re singing it well, or sing something new or rare that just blows people away with how undeniably great it is on the first hearing. This song just blew. Still, he sang it pretty good but it was a horrible song choice for a national singing competition – save the eclectic, self-indulgent crap for your second album, Chris.

Facing Elimination:

  • Sanjaya Malakar: Again should be facing elimination – he started with a very shaky voice, and with his straightened hair he looks likd a cross between Prince and Gilligan. He was better this week than last week, but that’s not saying much, and AI voters should do some justice and get rid of him now. I still like the kid, and think he has talent, but he’s not keeping it together…maybe next year.
  • Sundance Head: Sorry to say this as we’ve been rooting for Sundance, but he took on Pearl Jam tonight and just lost. The song was just way to big and raw and rough for him, and he was sporting a dumb looking faux hawk to go with his billy goat chin hair. He started super-flat and his voice was weak throughout – he seemed to be going for the Chris Daughtry vibe, but he just doesn’t have the voice or the aura to pull it off.
  • Phil Stacey: Just a completely stupid look with a stupid-looking hat (was there a fishhook in it??), the opening bars were terrible. He sounded like he was crying and couldn’t sing – his voice got slightly stronger near the end, but his voice was still cracking and he was giving off the very strange serial-killer-thousand-yard-stare-vibe, so much so that the judges even commented on it (finally, I thought it was just me).

Our favorites tonight were Blake Lewis, Brandon Rogers, and Chris Sligh – but none of them stepped us as an unquestionable star. Guys, you better get it in gear for the Top 12!

3/1/2007 – Four More Eliminations

Well, Idol voters have shown their unpredictable side for the first time this year. They got some right, got one VERY wrong – here’s who got voted off this week:

  • Nick Pedro: Can’t argue with Nick getting eliminated, his performance this week wasn’t very strong. Nick went out proud with a strong rendition of his performance song, better than his take on Tuesday – in fact, if he had sang as good on Tuesday as he did tonight he’d probably still be here.
  • Alaina Alexander: I had her pegged to return, but just barely. Can’t argue with her getting eliminated. She was so overcome she became one of the rare Idol ejectees too overcome to perform her song – she cried and hugged the other girls and sang the last bar or so through her tears.
  • A.J. Tabaldo: The first mis-step by the American voting public. A.J. may not be the very best, but he definitely outsang Sanjaya Malakar. I like and have been rooting for Sanjaya and am happy he gets chance to redeem himself, but he didn’t deserve it based on last week’s performance. I hope he takes advantage of his reprieve, and too bad for A.J.
  • Leslie Hunt: No surprise here, she didn’t have a strong performance and had an awkward stage presence and mannerisms.

2/28/2007 – The Top 10 Women Perform

Looks like the men were stronger this week. The women weren’t bad, but last week they kicked the men’s asses, and this week the men outsang them, but just by a bit.

Strong Performances:

  • Melinda Doolittle: Sang My Funny Valentine which is a big risk as it can reallly come across as corny and cabaret. She started rough with an awkward low run, but she sang through it and showed very nice control. She projected without screaming and kept her big, powerful voice restrained, but barely, so that we could see just how powerful it would be if she let it loose. She needs a bit more self-confidence, but if she keeps singing like this, and the judges keep raving, she’ll start to believe. Then the rest of the contestants better watch out.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Gina Glocksen: Sang a Heart song, didn’t come near the Wilson sisters’ voices, flat and pitchy, screaming in the high parts, hiding behind harmony in some parts, just didn’t do it. Not horrible, but nothing special, however the judges seemed to like it, go figure.
  • LaKisha Jones: Sang Midnight Train to Georgia, taking on Gladys Knight, shooting HIGH, started pitchy, did okay in the stronger parts, but not bringing it. She’s doing it justice, but not making it her own – she won’t be eliminated, but not nearly as good as I expected from her.
  • Jordin Sparks: Oof, flat at the start, got stronger, with a pure, clear voice in the middle parts – still shaky in the low quiet parts, but hella good in the big, strong parts, beautifully controlled finish. Should be safe from elimination.
  • Stephanie Edwards: Looked a lot like Fantasia (on purpose, it seems), weird song, never got going melodically. She did okay, but the song didn’t go anywhere – kind of sung/spoken, not a singer’s song. She hit the big note near the end but overall the song had no tempo or melody, strange choice for singing competition, not bad but didn’t showcase her talents.
  • Sabrina Sloan: Another microphone tapper, which I find very distracting, her voice was flat in the big parts. Not sure why she dedicated a song called “He Fills Me Up” to her grandmother? The whole thing was like figure skating compulsories…she did a good job technically, but it was boring and predictable.
  • Alaina Alexander: She started shaky and too breathy – she may have been going for stylized but it just seemed like she was gasping. The song was some generic, trite anthem and she hid behind the harmonies – her voice was not big enough for the power parts, flat and pitchy, and she kept running out of breath.

Facing Elimination:

  • Antonella Barba: Started horribly off-key and shaky, stayed off key for most of the song. Very pitchy, she lost it and didn’t get it back until 3/4 of the way through the song. Then she nailed a high run and finished strong, but probably not enough.
  • Haley Scarnato: Not nearly enough moxie to pull off Queen of the Night – she tried hard, but too hard, with awkward stage antics. She demonstrated workmanlike vocals, not bad, but unmemorable…hard to make such a hooky song boring, but she did it. Very off-key run in the middle and she’s just not comfortable with this “rocking” persona, felt fake.
  • Leslie Hunt: Started quietly with good control and tone, but I kept waiting for the song to get going. Her voice was not quite big enough for the song and the weird, contrived scatting in the middle was just awkward and distracting and she had a really weak finish. It felt like she tried for an eclectic big voice but instead delivered a tortured small voice.

Melinda Doolittle was by far the strongest contender tonight. LaKisha can really sing, but she didn’t bring it tonight, but should stick around to the later rounds.

2/27/2007 – The Top 10 Men Perform

Well, the men definitely took their game up a notch compared to last week, when there were no real standouts. Tonight was a much stronger night and it was enjoyable to watch them begin to grow up onto the big stage:

Strong Performances:

  • A.J. Tabaldo: Song opened quietly, and he showed good voice control and projection, the song got stronger as did his vocals, he sang the song and projected his personality and showed remarkable stage presence. Much improved over last week, overall very strong.
  • Jared Cotter: Took on Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get It On), which is basically shooting for the stars. Started OK, a little bit flat in the middle and he hid behind the harmony vocals for a bit, but he sang it out and really did a good job. The song was bigger than him, but not by much. Good, solid performance.
  • Chris Sligh: His hair was even wilder than normal, his voice is still angelic, didn’t love the song choice, but he sang the hell out of it. Definitely a contender.
  • Sundance Head: Did Mustang Sally and went for the good-time-rocking vibe. He didn’t start strong, but he worked up to it and finally got rocking. Very nice rock-scream near the end, not too many singers can do that and not sound screechy or stupid, but he did it. Overall a good solid performance.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Phil Stacey: Boring, toneless, no charisma or stage presence, workmanlike vocals, like good karaoke, unmemorable, but for some reason the judges liked it. Wasn’t terrible and I doubt he’s facing elimination, but did nothing for me.
  • Blake Lewis: Hated the stupid outfit, and he didn’t project his voice. He did some beatboxing in the middle that was actually very nice, but overall his voice was not nearly as full and mature as last week. In my opinion based on the singing he should be facing elimination, but I think he’ll get enough voters to his eclectic style to keep him around at least another week.
  • Chris Richardson: Nice hoodie from the Old Navy “hip-white-guy” collection, not a bad voice, still sounds very derivative of Justin Timberlake, but he seemed to start to feeling his own style as the song progressed. I wish he’d stray from the boy-band sound, though.

Facing Elimination:

  • Sanjaya Malakar: Wore a daring hat, but didn’t bring the game to make it look cool so he just looked like a little kid performing in his dad’s clothes. His voice was too quiet in the opening but he showed good control, the song was a swinging oldie and he tried to swing but failed. He couldn’t catch that Rat Pack vibe and the whole thing fell flat.
  • Nick Pedro: Sang Fever, started with clear, strong voice and a nice tone, too quiet, though, and he needed to project while still staying controlled. This is such a woman’s song hard to open my mind to a male take, but he needed to cut loose and didn’t, very flat performance for me.
  • Brandon Rogers: Chose Time After time, another traditionally female song. Had a rough start and in the big parts his voice was hard to hear among the background harmonies. Not horrible but I think the erratic performance coupled with the odd song choice could put him in danger of elimination.

Sanjaya was really the only clear choice for the Facing Elimination category – Nick and Brandon could both easily be back next week but my guess is one of them will join Sanjaya on the sacrificial altar.

2/22/2007 – Who Got Voted Off

Well, the first results show of the season is done, and here are the first batch of ejectees:

  • Rudy Cardenas
  • Paul Kim
  • Amy Krebs
  • Nicole Tranquillo

Can’t argue with any of those choices, but the quality of the competition is pretty low this year so these first rounds are going to be fairly un-dramatic, unless the voting public really gets stupid and starts voting off the few talented performers early!

2/21/2007 – The Top 12 Women Perform

Strong Performances:

  • LaKisha Jones: Wow, she sang the HELL out of that song from Dreamgirls!! Stage antics were a touch cheesy, but her voice transcended everything else, and everyone else tonight. Easily the best tonight.
  • Gina Glocksen: Took on the song “All By Myself”, which is like a singer’s decathlon, high parts, low parts, quiet parts, powerful parts, and she did it! Really made the song her own, effortlessly. Not perfect, but surprisingly mature and refined, definitely a contender.
  • Jordin Sparks: Had the hubris to try a Tracy Chapman song (Give Me One Reason), had a good, strong voice, not quite the age/wisdom/life experience/pain to really nail the song, but still sang the heck (but not the hell) out of it.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Melinda Doolittle: More Aretha here, she alllmost has the voice and soul for it but she sounds a little old, kinda like watching Gladys Knight. Definite potential, but needs to modernize just a touch.

Facing Elimination:

  • Stephanie Edwards: Quiet and tentative beginning, kind of torch singer, but quavery and weak and off-pitch, she ended up on her knees in a very contrived bit of stagecraft and was slightly off pitch on big final note.
  • Amy Krebs: Good song choice, started kind of flat but shook it off in the middle, voice not quite big enough for the runs or the song and the end was nasty, completely off-key.
  • Leslie Hunt: Didn’t have 1/10th the voice or soul to cover Aretha, and her gangly stage antics were distracting. Pitchy and forgettable.
  • Sabrina Sloan: Voice WAYYY to small, who do these girls think they are taking on Aretha?? Do they *listen* to Aretha before they try? However, something must be wrong with my speakers or hearing because the judges *loved* her. I didn’t hear it.
  • Antonella Barba: She looked like a pop star but also made me realize what a great voice Steven Tyler has. She covered that crappy Aerosmith song from Armageddon – watching her trying to fill out the song was like watching a little kid clomp around in her mom’s shoes, it’s cute but not really a talent.
  • Nicole Tranquillo: Ugh, she copped a fake black voice and attitidue which did not work. Her voice was kind of okay but just workmanlike, thin in the high ranges, and she ended up shouting instead of projecting her voice.
  • Haley Scarnato: She looked more glamourous than in her short-shorts during the elimination show, sang some sappy anthem, displayed a medium voice, ran out of breath, and did one of my least favorite stage moves…the squat’n’sing, where the singer squats down like they’re doing a heavy lift and then tries to raise up their voices. Also known around here as the poop’n’yodel.
  • Alaina Alexander: Sang Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders, but her voice was too delicate and quavery, she lost it on the high notes, completely lost the pitch, lost her breath, lost her confidence, started shouting at the end.

Well, the girls were WAY better than the men this week – unfortunately the rules say two guys and two girls get voted off, *not* the four worst singers. If it were the four worst it might be an all-male-vote-off. Tune in here tomorrow night to hear the voting results!

2/20/2007 – The Top 12 Men Perform

Strong Performances:

  • Sad to say, there were no standouts in today’s performances by the top 12 men. Some were stronger than others, but all verged on mediocre. Is it opening night jitters or just a less-skilled batch of men than in recent seasons? We hope it was just jitters, but don’t really see any strong contenders from the men at this point. See below for more info on each performance.

Good Enough to Return Next Week:

  • Philip Stacey: A bit flat and toneless, he’s really working the serial-killer vibe with me, he showed a powerful voice in the louder parts, but overall a cheesy performance.
  • Blake Lewis: The human beatbox stayed strictly melodic tonight, picture Sting crossed with Freddy Mercury crossed with Ryan Seacrest (all three in both look and sound, assuming Seacrest is no great singer). His voice cracked during his first falsetto run, but he recovered, and he had a couple of other short rough patches, but each time he sang through them – seemed like opening night jitters. May be our favorite so far based on tonight’s performances.
  • Sanjaya Malakar: Started shaky, but still flashed his very pretty, smooth voice. However, he didn’t project his voice or his personality, and tonight’s Stevie Wonder song was too big for him. He needs to cut loose, relax, and swing for the fences. Still has great potential, this felt like opening night nerves.
  • Chris Sligh: He was shouting a bit, kind of flat, but still a good strong voice and control. Didn’t like the song selection but that’s fixable. Looking to see how he does as he gets used to the big stage.

Facing Elimination:

  • Rudy Cardenas: looks better clean shaven, no charisma, workmanlike vocals.
  • Brandon Rogers: Bland, stylized Michael Jackson song (Rock With You), nothing memorable.
  • Sundance Head: Covered “Nights in White Satin”, could have been a home run, but was super cheesy, he was shaky and nervous, and he needs to shave that Amish-Paradise-Meets-C-Everett-Koop abomination from his chin.
  • Paul Kim: Toneless and shoeless. Hopeless? We’ll see.
  • Chris Richardson: Basically a Justin Timberlake bobble-head doll. Cute for five minutes, but what’s next?
  • Nick Pedro: Good first 20 seconds, hit a big flat note, didn’t recover.
  • Jared Cotter: Lifeless, soulless R&B romantic ballad, toneless, screechy, no charisma.
  • A.J. Tabaldo: His hair is cut like a mental patient or electric chair victim, no charisma, flat on the big notes, song and performance were boring and trite.

Well, that’s it for the guys, I hope the girls do better tomorrow night so we have somebody we can really root for!

2/14/2007 – Hollywood Week Finale

Well, the Top 24 have been selected, and here they are:

Tune in next week for more updates!

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