American Idol – May 22 – The Final 2 Perform

May 23, 2007

I haven’t written about the show in a few weeks.  A lot has been written of the demise the past few weeks of the 2 who were most likely the best singers in the competition.  As my regular readers know I don’t disagree that LaKisha and even more so Melinda had killer voices but I don’t think either deserve to win Idol.  It’s not that they won’t have careers but we have to go back to the show’s roots in the UK when it was called Pop Idol.  That’s what the show is supposed to be finding – the next chart topping pop idol and a great voice isn’t enough to be that.  It requires stage presence and ultimately an ability to display something unique in the songs they put out.

Kelly Clarkson is still the best example of someone who was able to use her presence and her voice to cut loose from the crap Idol mold singing songs like “A Moment Like This” to put out one of the best pop albums in years with fans who never watched her or anyone else on Idol.  Chris Daughtry is another example of someone who didn’t win but stuck to what made him unique to kick Taylor Hick’s butt on the chart.  You may respect Jennifer Hudson for winning an Oscar but be honest with yourself – she won for being a good broadway actress on film which doesn’t mean she’s going to be selling albums anytime soon.  Melinda and LaKisha will sell albums (likely on an R&B chart or on Broadway) but will anyone who is upset that they didn’t go on to the finals actually buy them.  My guess is no.

Enough of my ranting.   Let’s talk about tonight’s show.  After fast forwarding through the fluff we finally got to the first performance 15 minutes in.

Blake kicked it off with his still rather cool version of Bon Jovi’s You Give Love a Bad Name.  I think the beat boxing is a little over done by him already but there’s no arguing that he probably the most original person ever on an Idol show and he’s brought something unique to every song he’s performed.   A good producer and some sound editing will help him put out a pretty interesting album.

Jordin did some Christina Aguilara song and let her great voice do the work for her with some amazing vocal gymnastics with a pretty complex song.  This is the kind of song that will sell albums for her.  Simon, enough with the young comments – they add no value.

For me the first round is a draw.

Blake did She Will Be Loved and showed good professional restraint by knowing not to beat box in every song (something I was concerned he would do).  To me the vocal was a little rough with the song sounding a bit out of his comfort zone in parts.  Still, Randy’s right it’s good to hear how he handles diverse songs and Simon’s right that it wasn’t distinguishing enough for a final performance.

Jordin sang A Broken Wing and again showed off her pipes.  This is what I like about her, even her voice showpiece songs demonstrate something marketable that I just didn’t see in Melinda or LaKisha.  She doesn’t just hit the notes but she also has the star quality that the judges often talk about.  Randy’s right – age has nothing to do with anything.

Second round goes to Jordin.

Blake’s final song was the obligatory Idol song This is My Now written by some guy in the audience who won a song writing contest.  I hate to say that this song was no better than any of the other Idol songs the contestants get stuck with.  It lacked what I think The Sopranos’ Hesh called the She Loves You principle.  Have to agree with the judges – the song was completely wrong for Blake and makes you wonder what they were thinking giving it to him knowing he would suck at it.  Way to screw him Idol producers.  If he loses he really does have grounds for appeal.

Jordin sang the same song and did a better job with it.  Still, a crappy song is a crappy song.  If the producers can’t find better songs for them to sing and release as singles, they should change this part of the competition.

Third round to Jordin by acclimation.

I guess Jordin is going to win.  I won’t know though.  I’ll be watching Lost.

The Past Week in TV

April 27, 2007

This week has been a little crazy for me and I haven’t had much time to write so I’m going to instead give some quick hits on what I’ve watched and what I thought.

24 – That’s it.  Despite writing last week that I was likely going to stick it out for the last few episodes of the season after this week’s borefest I’m done.  There is nothing redeeming remaining about this show and there are enough good shows to watch that I don’t have to distract myself with this crap.  Avi’s Episode Rating: C-

Heroes – The reason I don’t feel a need to waste cycles on 24.  After way too long a hiatus (that felt even longer because of the amazing previews) Heroes finally returned with death, action, answers and another crazy cliffhanger.  As a comic geek I have to admit that I let out a “cool” when I heard Linderman give us his Watchman-esque plan to save the world.  I followed that with a “wow” as Linderman and Mrs. Petrelli alluded to their time as heroes likely in some form of Golden Age Justice League (or Justice Society for you fellow comic fans).  The death of Isaac, Claire meeting her father, Nathan as the future president – all great moments that set us up for the final scene of Hiro in the future and next week’s glimpse into the future.  Avi’s Episode Rating: A

The Sopranos – I liked the first 2 episodes of the season better but I enjoyed Tony and Paulie’s amazing adventure although it does sadden me to see Junior’s story really coming to an end.  I’m still going to stick with my prediction that Tony is going to retire before the season ends.   Avi’s Episode Rating: B+

American Idol – I didn’t watch the performances this week and only saw part of Wednesday’s telethon but I have to question the decision to bring back Kelly Clarkson.  Backed by the legendary Jeff Beck she pretty much puts all of the contestants on this season (and most of the previous ones) to shame.  The only one with any commercial potential to be the next Kelly Clarkson is Jordin.  End rant.  Another good moment was the Simpsons scene where they judge Simon which had me crying I was laughing so loud.  Annie Lennox was pretty good too.

I’ll get back to writing more regularly for the next couple of days.

American Idol – April 10 – Top 8 Perform

April 11, 2007

I haven’t done a live blog on American Idol for a few weeks but tonight I’m back.   The special guest is JLo who in my estimation is probably one of the biggest stars the show has had in terms of modern mainstream appeal.  Without further ado here’s my 2  cents on tonight’s performances.

Melinda – I thought she was marginally better tonight in terms of demonstrating at least some ability to move beyond show tunes and torch songs.  Still, as much as I like her voice my opinion on her ability to produce a mainstream album hasn’t changed.  She won’t be able to.

LaKisha – Finally some personality from LaKisha.  Like Melinda she moved from her standards based self.  The first time in my opinion that she’s shown that she might actually have a little bit of an album in her.  Not sure why Paula and Simon are calling it safe the first time she does something slightly more upbeat and fun instead of showcasing her inner Broadway self.

Chris – A good performance but I thought his singing was off.  The voice lacked some edge or passion.

Haley – She really is hot and a good performer to boot.  Her voice isn’t as good as the others and I’m not sure she is going to be selling albums any time soon but she’s got personality and actually looks like she has fun up there.

Phil – I still don’t get how the judges even tolerate Phil.  This guy has a terrible voice.  He’s painful to listen to and I cringed with every high note.  How can they call Haley bad and give this guy a pass week after week.  He’s far, far, far, far worse.

Jordin – By far my favourite female in the competition.  Consistently great voice, great performances and she brings a cool, modern vibe that says “I will sell albums on an actual pop chart” unlike early favourites LaKisha and Melinda.

Blake – My favourite guy in the competition.  Same exact comments as I have about Jordin – great voice, great performance and a cool modern vibe that will sell records.

Sanjaya – Well he embraced the theme – good for him choosing to sing in Spanish.  His young girl fan base will love it.  He wasn’t as painful as usual because he didn’t really sing but rather spoke in a tune.  He’s not going anywhere this week.  I agree with Randy – he knows how to play the game.

After watching tonight’s episode, I have to say that I’m still shocked and dismayed that this is the best they could find in all of America out of tens of thousands of prospective singers.  Maybe it’s time for some new judges because these ones don’t seem to be able to sniff out talent any more.

So without further ado, my picks for bottom 2 are Phil and Haley with Phil most deserving to go home.  I’m done picking Sanjaya.

My choice for the final 2 are Jordin and Blake.

American Idol – March 20 – Top 11 Perform

March 21, 2007

Tonight is British Invasion night and I’m expecting to be able to compress the 2 hour show into 37 minutes of viewing time.  Here’s how the contestants fared this week:

Haley – Her voice sounded nice enough, fun song, she’s definitely cute and I think she did a good job working the crowd but there’s something missing in the vocals.  I can’t put my finger on what exactly is bothering me about her performance.  It just didn’t seem genuine to me.

Chris R – The acoustic performance was a much better showcase for him than the ballads of the past few weeks and he sounded okay.  Still I found him a little boring and he’s definitely not to my taste.  The guitarist was good though.

Stephanie – She sounded great but it wasn’t my favourite of her performances.  I have to agree a bit with Simon that she was missing the passion and soul that could make her a great new Macy Gray or Lauryn Hill.  Still I’m a big fan and think she could make a kick ass album.

Blake – Great choice of song.  Good showcase for his voice and fits really well with his style.  A cool, controlled performance.  I really like how he has been able to do good modern rearrangements of classic songs and this was week was no exception.

LaKisha – I keep hoping to hear something new to change my mind about LaKisha as the critics continue to rave about her.  This week I thought we got a little closer.  There’s still no doubt she has an awesome voice and this was a cool performance.  She will be a great Broadway star, just not a pop star.

Phil – This is the first performance of Phil’s that I think I’ve liked the entire competition.  Not much singing but at least this wasn’t painful and featured a good memorable performance.  I agree with Simon though – he has no grit especially if you try and compare him to Chris Daughtry from last season.

Jordin – Sounded great.  Excellent stage presence.  Lots of charisma.  I’m a big fan.

Sunjaya – At least he sang a song I recognized, one of the few this evening.  I just fast forwarded to the end.  Too hard to listen to.

Gina – Definitely the right song for her.  It has the right amount of edge to suit her style but it was a bit off in a few places.  Loved the change up of the song near the end.  With Gina at least we know what kind of album she would make and I think she could sell.  It wasn’t as good as the Canadian Idol performed versions of the song the past few years though.

Chris S – Wow! Two Zombies songs in one night.  Good performance and great vocal but definitely inferior to Blake’s Zombie tune.

Melinda – I have a soft spot for Oliver which was a favourite of my family’s growing up.  As far as Melinda goes I’m a broken record, there’s still nothing to convince me that she isn’t going to be anything but a Broadway singer, maybe a great one but that’s it.  And let me tell you choosing a Broadway song isn’t going to change my mind.  I’m not sure how this qualifies as a British Invasion song by any stretch of the imagination.  She just refuses to break out of the box she’s in and it’s a box that I think will prevent her from selling albums.

I have to admit I’m shocked at how many of the song choices weren’t well known songs given the huge catalogue that could encompass the British invasion.  So as much as I’d like to say it will be Phil or Sunjaya going home tomorrow, my pick is Gina.  I can’t see her having the fan base of the others on the program.

American Idol – How I Did This Week and the Delusions of Simon Cowell

March 16, 2007

Whoo, hoo.  I finally got it right.  Brandon got booted last night just like I predicted.  He definitely wasn’t the worst but between forgetting the words, generally sucking and going first and not having the “fan base” of Sanjaya he was toast.

Now on to Simon.  He’s being interviewed on 60 Minutes this week and check out this excerpt as reported by the Orlando Sentinel:

In the interview, Cowell tells Anderson Cooper: “I sell more records than Bruce Springsteen.”

The rock star has a contract with Sony BMG  reported to be in the neighborhood of $100 million.  “In the last five years, I’ve probably sold over 100 million records,” Cowell says. “If [Springsteen] got 100 [million dollars], I should have got 500.”

Awesome.  Let me make sure I understand this, Simon is the judge of a talent show and Bruce is one of the greatest singer/ songwriters ever (listen to The Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle and then come back and disagree).  I see how it would be possible to confuse the level of talent between the two.  I think the marketing guy at Sony BMG, the Fox editors and camera people on the set and have almost as much claim as Simon.  Silly, silly man.

American Idol – March 13 – Top 12

March 14, 2007

I’m blogging this in almost real time. It’s 9:35 and I’m going to start watching now. I expect that the entire 2 hour show can be watched and written about in less than 40 minutes. Let’s find out.

Brandon – I’m just not a fan. His performance of Can’t Hurry Love made me yearn for Phil Collins’ version. In case you’re wondering – that’s bad. Forgetting the words probably doesn’t help either. Borrrrrrring. Wow, was Simon harsh. Not that I disagree with anything he said but still harsh.

Melinda – Haven’t changed my opinion. Great voice but belongs on Broadway. I just don’t see her selling albums of relevance in 2007. Simon calling her a young Gladys Knight is just reinforcing my point. As an aside, what was with all the crying? Silly.

Chris S – I wasn’t sure how he was going to do tonight with Diana Ross songs but I thought he was great. Didn’t love the arrangement but got what he was trying to do – a Coldplay version of Endless Love. Props for trying something different and in line with who he is. Melinda and LaKisha may be better singers but this guy will sell albums just like Chris Daughtry before him.

Gina – I actually think the original song arrangement is a better fit with her voice and style then her revised version. As Simon would say – very cruise ship.

Sunjaya – No need for me to comment. The rest of the world has been hard enough on this guy. Like the Chicken Little looking guy last year or even Antonella last week, let’s hope America puts him out of his misery.

Haley – She looked hot (and I don’t mean it in a Paula kiss of death way) and I thought she was better than last week. Still, she’s not memorable enough to be around more than a few weeks.

Phil – There isn’t a big enough military in the world to keep this guy around. For me the worst of the night and yes that includes Sunjaya. I think I heard dogs outside singing along with him. What are the judges thinking. I’ve been in sync with them most of the night but this is the exception.

LaKisha – No more repeating myself. Read my Melinda comment and replace Melinda’s name with LaKisha.

Blake – Didn’t love the arrangement but I liked him. He’s got charisma and he’s commercial enough to make and sell interesting albums. Definitely dug the ending.

Stephanie – I’m not sure what the judges have against Stephanie. I think she has the voice of LaKisha or Melinda but with a more modern vibe – like a Macy Gray. Not her best performance but I like her a lot.

Chris R – I thought he kind of sucked this week. Two weeks in a row he didn’t work for me. Good thing Sunjaya and Phil set the bar low. I agree with Simon.

Jordin – Not my favourite performance from her either but I still like her – great voice and there’s something about her that makes her stand out.

Before I go into my pick for who’s going to get the boot, NewsDay’s Verne Gay wrote an article today called Lakisha, Melinda or the Door. You can tell from the title the basic premise – that the competition should be over with LaKisha or Melinda winning. Reading his article (and if you read my comments above) I think his premise is flawed. He thinks American Idol is a singing competition where the best singer should win.

I don’t think Simon or the American Idol producers agree with that idea. As people who have stakes in the albums that the winners make, they want to find an Idol who is most likely to sell albums to a large audience. They want someone to win Grammys and to make it on the sales charts and stay there. I don’t think LaKisha or Melinda despite maybe being the best of the singers in the competition are likely to produce commercial albums. They are like Reuben and will produce niche albums that may have a fan base but will never turn into the megastar that Kelly Clarkson has become. For commercial appeal – Chris S, Stephanie (with the right material) or Blake with Jordin on the bubble.

So as much as I’d like to say Sunjaya is going home, I’m going to go with Hayley.

Checkout time: 10:20 – 45 minutes, a little longer than expected but still within a reasonable margin of error.

American Idol – Top 16 results – How Did I Do

March 9, 2007

Remember everything I said about the previous nights having no filler.   Well the results show made up for it.  Personally I just fast forward through to see who got booted.  I have no desire to see Carrie Underwood or hear her music and the manufactured suspense of who’s going to make it through just doesn’t interest me.

So how’d I do: 0 for 4.

So with the guys I got 0%.  Jared and Sundance are off the show and Sunjaya lives to sing another day.  I didn’t think Jared really had a chance long term but Sundance at least was cool, provided something different and he seems to have found the right types of songs for his voice.

I hit 0% with the girls.  Antonella and Sabrina got the boot.  I only expected Antonella to make it through based on her fan base and notoriety not on merit.  But Sabrina – wow was that wrong.  The competition just lost one of its best, most powerful voices.

So much for my ability to predict how America would vote.  I clearly suck at this.

American Idol – March 7 – Final 8 Gals

March 9, 2007

Like I said in my last AI post, I like these episodes where they have minimal filler (grading on an American Idol curve of course).  Here are my thoughts on the performances.

Jordin – I liked her much better this week.  Lots more energy and the song was a good fit for her voice.  It’s the kind of album I could see her making – a modern Pat Benatar.

Sabrina – Also much better this week.  Good song choice to show off the power of her voice and I liked the performance too.

Antonella – I actually liked her a bit better this week.  Still, it’s not enough compared to the other women in the competition.  She’s just not up to par.   I never thought I’d say this but kudos to Simon for his classy acknowledgement of Antonella’s media attention but in a Simon way that still differentiates between how he feels about her and how he feels about her performance.  Oh yeah, one more thing – screw you Rosie.

Hayley – Nice voice but there wasn’t anything there to draw me in.  As Randy said “no yo”.  Funny enough, I also didn’t recognize her or know her name.

Stephanie – Randy’s nuts.  She was truly amazing.  To me she’s the front runner.  An amazing voice and some great stage presence.

LaKisha – Also amazing.  Just an incredible voice.  Still, I maintain the same position I had last week and the week before – she’s stuck doing a type of song that just won’t get me to buy any album she would make.  She needs to mix it up to get my vote.

Gina – At least she’s doing something different playing an Evanescence tune like we would hear on the far superior Rockstar series.  Still found her voice to be a little screechy but a much better match with her skills and far more interesting than the majority of competitors.

Melinda – Just like with LaKisha I can put the same comment in for Melinda.  Amazing voice, great performer but I still haven’t heard her sing a song that would sell an album.

So bottom line:

Who should go: Antonella and Hayley.

Who will go: Gina and Hayley

American Idol – March 6 – Final 8 Guys

March 7, 2007

This is how I like my American Idol – 16 minutes of singing, 16 minutes of judging and a limited 10 minutes of filler (silly banter, judge introduction and singer introductions) plus 18 minutes of commercials of course.  Compare this to 2 weeks ago when it was 18 minutes of singing, 24 minutes of judging and 42 minutes of filler, with 36 minutes of commercials. Now on with my real time review:

Blake – I agree with the judges.  It’s a rarity on this show to have someone who feels both current and unique.  What’s cool is I don’t even have know the song but I liked  it.   Fun mix of reggae and hip hop.  Blake may not be the best singer in the competition but I think he’ll make a great album.

Sunjaya – I almost fast forwarded through him.  Why even give the 2 minutes to  someone who really doesn’t belong here.  But alas, for the sake of this review I watched.  I should have gone with my first instinct.

Sundance – I still like Sundance and hope he makes it through but this performance sucked.  Maybe I’m unfairly comparing him to Eddie Vedder who has that Jim Morrison charisma which Sundance just doesn’t have.  Liked him better as a Commitment last week.

Chris R – Didn’t work for me tonight.  I just found it kind of boring.  His voice sounded fine but unlike Blake who made me like a song I didn’t know, Chris made me detest a song I didn’t know.  Not my kind of music.

Jared – I liked him better than last week but the emoting still annoys me.   Still, good voice, charismatic good looking guy and a solid performer.  He’s going through.

Brandon – He’s got a good enough voice but I didn’t feel anything funky about his presentation.  Voice was completely wrong for that song and I find it just a little too generic.

Phil – Painful to listen to.  He sounds terrible.  Why can’t these guys learn that you don’t choose songs because you like them.

Chris S – Still love him.  You know who he reminds me of – John Popper from Blues  Traveller.  Like Blake, Chris brings something unique to the show and I can see him heading up a Blues Traveller/ Spin Doctors jam band.

Here’s my picks for who’s going home: Sunjaya and Phil.

American Idol – Top 20 results – How I did with my picks

March 2, 2007

I did better this week than last week with my pitches getting 50% right.  I’m tempted to give myself a slightly higher score for predicting that Antonella wouldn’t go home despite deserving to but I won’t.

For the boys, I predicted Sunjaya and AJ and America voted out Nick and AJ.   I didn’t feel strongly about either so no loss here.

So on the girls side I predicted Alaina and Hayley and the result was Alaina and Leslie.  I think this is too bad since I really liked Leslie.  She had something unique and I think more than most of the contenders here she could sell albums outside of those who buy because it’s the latest from American Idol.

Anyway, 50% isn’t bad.  We’ll see what happens next week.