Saturday, January 27, 2007

Prince Charming Beckham

Soccer superstar David Beckham (who seems to be a better celebrity than soccer player these days) will portray Prince Charming from Sleeping Beauty in a series of ads for the "Year of a Million Dreams" promotions at Walt Disney theme parks.

Becks and other celebrities were photographed by famed photographer Annie Liebovitz for the ads. Becks will be riding a white horse while fighting a fire-breathing dragon.

Also featured are Scarlet Johannson as Cinderella leaving the ball and Beyonce as Alice in Wonderland. Lyle Lovett and Oliver Platt are also in the Alice in Wonderland shoot.

Becks and co. were chosen for the ads because Liebovitz wanted people who were "globally iconic".

Apparently, the celebs helped decide which characters they would portray, and Beckham liked the idea of "a hero role."

Considering that MLS is treating him as the savior of American soccer, I guess that hero role isn't surprising.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jailbait Jenry

American Idol's New York auditions introduced us to Tyson Beckford look-alike Jenry Bejarano. Jenry caught my eye in the previews of yesterday's episode, and he sings as good as he looks. He has confidence without seeming cocky, and did I mention he's possibly the hottest contestant ever to turn up on Idol? Oh, and he's also 16 years old. Ooof.

Jailbait Jenry could be a juggernaut if he gets to semifinals. I think he's going to be a hit with the tweens, the teens and even the young adult set since he can pass for 24 or 25. Finally ... a teenage male who doesn't seem like such a child (coughKevinCovaisJohnStevenscough).

Other standouts from New York included versatile Rachel Zevita, who sang a Jeff Buckley song, "Get Here" and an opera song in her audition. I didn't much care for the latter two, but she sounded so unique on the Jeff Buckley song. Porcelana Patino also had a truly unique voice. I was expecting her to be a train-wreck with her Madonna-esque outfit and her backstory of physically training for her audition, but she was really good. I have suspicions about Sarah Burgess' backstory. It rang a little false for me (her father is unsupportive, and she lied to them about going to the audition ... her tears seemed a little too convenient), but she had a good voice. Chris Richardson gets compared favorably to Justin Timberlake, but I thought it was more Elliott Yamin than JT. And a poor-man's Elliott at that. Too many runs! I didn't quite understand the tongue-bath over Nicholas Pedro, who quit during last year's Hollywood round. He has a nice voice, but I didn't find it to be all that special. And Ashanti Johnson - poor thing has made it to Hollywood twice before but cut before the semifinals. The third time wasn't a charm - she didn't even get a gold ticket. Guest judge Carole Bayer Sager told her she should try for Broadway, and Ashanti took it literally, going into a dramatic monologue about how she should have another chance. It was sad to see her lose her dignity like that.

Next up ... Birmingham, home of three previous Idol finalists in Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks. One dude is already showing finalist potential just from the quick preview - the Jack Osbourne look-alike. We'll see how he does next week.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Memphis Blues

Another quickie recap from last night's kinder, gentler American Idol auditions from Memphis ...

The show kicked off with the Southern Arkansas cheerleader who brought his entire cheer squad and band to the audition. He was a passable singer but not good enough. Even though he didn't make it, he was still perky enough to lead a cheer after his rejection. He even got Ryan Seacrest to join in. The loud display, though, prompted Simon Cowell to get out of his seat and yell at them, "Not to be rude, but will you please SHUT. UP." Perky and Simon do not get along.

The girl with no personality, Timika Sims, thinks she could be a Mya. Because the girl cannot enunciate to save her life, Simon has no idea what she says, and thinks she's saying "a mayor". After that hilarious exchange, Timika sings an Ashanti song. Oh yeah, that'll get you on this show. Timika finally musters up some semblance of personality upon leaving the building, flipping off the cameras.

Sundance Head is the first to make an impression. He's a soulful singer who is the son of Roy Head, who had a hit in the 60's, "Treat Her Right". Sundance impresses with "Stormy Monday" and gets the inevitable Taylor Hicks comparison, although with Simon having a serious hate on Taylor at the moment, even Timika Sims would have gotten a favorable comparison to Taylor. Simon says he'll be amazed if Sundance doesn't make the finals.

Another one who seems to have a good shot at the finals is backup singer Melinda Doolittle (pictured). Melinda sings "For Once In My Life" and sounds terrific. Reminds me a little of Jennifer Hudson. Melinda is great and seems really sweet, but she's lacking in the confidence department. Hopefully she can push past it.

A few other memorable auditions:
*Topher, the Paula stalker who calls his cheating wife a bitch
*Janita, the girl with the hoochie outfit who says her style works with her "confidentiality" (HAHA!)
*Black Elvis, who sings "Burnin' Love" and replies to Simon's question of "How is your story going to end?" with "With a period." (I'd laugh, but I don't think the kid is altogether there and probably was being serious)
*Sean Michel, who looks like a cross between Fidel Castro, Osama Bin Laden and Jesus. Sean gets put through after singing a Johnny Cash song. Hooray for the non-traditional song choices!
*Phil Stacey, who missed the birth of his daughter to stand in line for auditions. He's an average singer but gets put through.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

McPheever Hits Next Week

Katharine McPhee's debut album drops next week, but VH1 has a sneak peak of the full album.

The first single is "Over It", which I would call a total rip-off of JoJo's "Too Little Too Late" except that it was written by the same people, so I guess I'll just call it a clone. I feel like I shouldn't like the song, but I do; it's catchy. It's already getting good airplay. I can't believe RCA is actually doing things the right way for an Idol - getting a single out before the album drops. It's quite shocking.

"Open Toes" is what Katharine calls her "Thong Song". I'm not sure that THAT is something to be proud of, but in this world in which the freakin' "Lonely Goatherd" is getting sampled on a big single ("Wind It Up"), I wouldn't be surprised if this song actually becomes a hit, scarily enough. It's got a good beat, so if people ignore the insipid lyrics, it might work.

My favorite of the lot is "Ordinary World", a pretty ballad that should more than satisfy Katharine's Idol faithful. "Home" is also nice; it's X-tina-esque. Fans of Kat's under-utilized lower register should like "Neglected".

Overall, the album isn't going to win any critical awards, but it's pretty inoffensive with some good tunes and good vocals and may actually sell well. I had doubts as first, but after hearing the whole thing, I think Kat's commercial pop appeal may make this a decent hit. I'm not sure she'll out-do Taylor's first-week sales, but we shall see. Chris Daughtry is winning the Season 5 selling derby right now - he's already sold 1.3 million or so and is No. 1 on this week's album charts. Kellie Pickler made a re-entrance in the Top 50 this week, but Taylor is nowhere to be found in the Top 50. Yikes.

Crazies Storm Seattle

Too many nuts to recap for the Seattle auditions on American Idol, so here it is in a nutshell (pun intended!):

There was the delusional ("The Hotness"); the mentally ill (Nick Ziztmann); the plant (bra-less Darwin, aka Mischa, who sang "Don'tcha"); the fashion-challenged (girl with pink fishnet sleeves); the "bush baby", as Simon called him; the Fantasia/Pickler Lifetime story (stay-at-home mom whose husband doesn't support her auditioning ... and with good reason!); and the phony (the hairdresser Fake-lor Hicks).

There was also the giraffe (6-4 Anna Kearns, who thought it would be wise to wear three-inch heels); the soulful dude with the 'fro and great taste in music (Tommy Daniels, who sang Amos Lee); the Twindians (tm someone really clever at TWoP) with some foreshadowing of sibling rivalry; and the lovechild of Lisa Tucker and Nikko Smith, Jordin Sparks (aka what you would get if you crossed the ingenue with the big voice with the child of a famous athlete).

So put that all together and you get an episode that Rosie O'Donnell turns into a national headline ("American Idol is too cruel!"). To quote Simon Cowell, "Whoopee."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Purple Talent Eater

American Idol season 6 began in Minneapolis, home of Prince. The Purple One wasn't there, but Jewel was as a guest judge. "Coincidentally" (yeah right), the first auditioner shown was Jessica Grove, whose Idol is Jewel. Jessica sang "You Were Meant For Me" (oh what a coincidence) like she was pretending to be Jewel, but she wasn't nearly good enough. When she was told no, she couldn't believe it and dissolved into tears. We got a good 5 minutes or so of her breakdown in the room with the judges and outside the room with her family. Seriously? Is it necessary to start off a kazillion episodes of auditions with this?

Another delusional one, Jesse Holloway, decided to auditioned with a tuneless "My Heart Will Go On" and then stopped mid-song and asked if he could get some water. He left the room and came back in. Personally, if I were the judges, I'd have locked the door before he came back in. He came back and re-sang the Celine song and then tried Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough", to which Simon said, "Why do you think we're looking for a two year old who can't sing?"

Charles Moody from New York came to his audition dressed like Apollo Creed in Rocky IV because he wanted to knock out the audition and then sang an Italian aria and Josh Groban's "When You Say You Love Me". If Apollo had sang those songs before his fight with Drago, Rocky would've punched him out and probably saved him from dying in the ring.

The annual American Idol sob story showed up next in the form of 16-year old Denise Jackson, who was a crack baby. She sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls. Although she mis-identified the song, calling it "You're Gonna Love Me", she didn't err with the way she sang, knocking it out of the park with plenty of power. The judges loved her, and she made it to Hollywood.

Minneapolis native Tashawn Moore couldn't get the words out for her song, with not much coming out of her mouth but "women not girls" and "rule my world". After an excruciating couple of minutes, she finally figured out what she was singing, and it finally began to actually sound like "Kiss" from Prince. And I'm thinking Prince will never come back to sing at the finale.

Perla Meneses, who is a dead-ringer for Ana Ortiz (Hilda) from "Ugly Betty", sang "Call Me" by Blondie, and things weren't looking good for her. Until Randy read that she likes Shakira and asked her to sing "Hips Don't Lie", which she did SO much better. The judges liked her personality and loved her doing the Shakira thing, so all four judges put her through to Hollywood.

Jarrod Fowler from the U.S. Navy auditioned after winning Reagan Idol and sang "Bless The Broken Road". Watching him was a little disconcerting, but he had a nice country voice. Simon surmised that the audience would like him, and all four judges put him through.

Cowardly Lion Trista Giese sang "If I Were King Of The Forest" from the Wizard of Oz in lion voice. It was good for a laugh but not very smart. Voice teacher Stephen Horst followed her with a musical-theater-esque and way over the top "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." Simon snarked, "Thank you, Stephen. I think we've had a few of your pupils here today." Heh. Randy is more directly mean, calling it hideous, saying he should never be a vocal teacher and that he'd never take lessons from him and laughing while insulting. It was so bad that Paula AND Simon were both telling him to stop.

Secretary Dayna Dooley's boss flew her to the Minneapolis audition after she missed the LA auditions. Randy and Simon made jokes about the relationship between her and her boss. She sang "Tell Me Something Good" and wasn't impressing anyone with some high-pitched screaming. The judges brought in her boss Gary and asked him why he would fly her to the audition and then have Dayna sing what she usually sings to him. It's "Fever". Snort. And she sings it right to his face and sounds much better. The judges think she can't do it without Gary and reject her. After Dayna and Gary leave, Randy and Simon debate with Jewel and Paula about their relationship, saying that Dayna looked to be in love with Gary. Me and the Dawgs are on the same page.

Sixteen year-old Matt Sato came to the audition alone because his parents couldn't afford to travel around to auditions with him. They apparently can't afford zit cream, either, because he has two unfortunate big pimples, one huge red one on his nose and another on his forehead. Ahh puberty. Anyway, he sang "California Dreaming" quite well and got sent through and was given a product-placement phone to call his mom to give her the news while tearing up. Awww.

Rachel Jenkins, who is in the Army Reserves and whose husband is serving in Iraq, made it 2-for-2 for the military crew after singing "His Eye Is On The Sparrow". There's something about Rachel that reminds me a bit of Kelly Clarkson during her audition. She's a fresh-faced, All-American girl with personality. I like her. Sarah Krueger also gave an audition reminiscent of a former Idol contestant - Katharine McPhee. She sang Kat's staple, "Over The Rainbow", very similarly to the way Kat did and breezed through to the next round.

Not breezing through to the next round were "Triple Threat" Jason Anderson and "Idol superfan" Brenna Kyner. Jason juggled some sticks while monotoning some boy band song. Simon called him useless in everything, even the juggling. Randy told him to audition for "America's Got Talent". Sixteen year-old Jason comes out in a rage and cusses and then cries. Brenna goes up next and said that she and Idol are BFF. The judges ask who her favorite Idol is, and she answers Ace Young, to which Randy goes, "Who?" Ha! She's met Ace several times, and he drew her a tattoo. Hopefully he also drew up a restraining order. Brenna sang "Under Pressure" and is so obviously doing everything she can to get on the show. Painfully bad singing? Check. Acting delusionally angry at not being sent through? Check. Saying the judges just turned away the next Idol? Check. Congratulations, stalker. You ARE the Idol Superfan.

Last up was rocker Josh Flom, who has a band back home. He was encouraged by Chris Daughtry "opening doors" for the rockers. Huh. Funny, I thought Bo Bice opened the door for Chris. But I guess Chris opened the door for same-note rockers who sing everything the same. Josh sang a "Bad Day" by Fuel, and Randy correctly noted that anyone could have sung that song the way Josh did. Simon's concern was that during, say, an Abba-themed week, Josh would have trouble. He told Josh to come back in 15 minutes and re-audition with an Abba song, and if he can handle that, they'll put him through. Josh ran around trying to find and learn an Abba song and comes back singing "Dancing Queen" the same way he sang the Fuel song. Props to him for sure for doing it, but then he said he could do Barry Manilow and proceeded to sing THAT song exactly the same way. The judges passed on him and told him to stick with his band, saying he'll thank them for it years from now. Perhaps, but will he thank Simon for making him sing Abba on national television? I doubt it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Unpopular Opinions: Pop Music

This blog is inspired by Entertainment Weekly's Sour Notes, where their staffers confessed about popular music they just didn't "get".

In some cases, I think some of this may not even be all that unpopular, but judging by how big some of these artists are, either by the music-buying public or by the critics, I guess I'm in the minority.

  • "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt - Yes, it has been overplayed to the high heavens. But sue me. I still love it.
  • Mary J. Blige - She earned the most nominations at the Grammy's this year, and I'm pretty lukewarm on her. My favorite song of hers to date still remains "Sweet Thing", and that's probably because I love the original song, done by Rufus and Chaka Khan. Mary J.'s new stuff is ok in moderation, but it gets old really fast. I think I'm still not over her caterwauling on "One" that completely ruined that awesome song.
  • The Pussycat Dolls' Grammy nomination didn't really bother me that much - "Stickwitu" was nominated for best pop vocal performance by a duo or group, and after my initial reaction of "WHAT?! The Pussycat Dolls got nominated for a GRAMMY?!", my next reaction was "I like that song."
  • Nickelback - Not sure that this is an unpopular opinion because I know lots of people that hate them, but there are probably more that love them, seeing as how they've sold 4 million albums of the same goddamn song - HowYouRemindMeSavin'MeFarAwaySomeday. Every freakin' song sounds just like the other. And you can't escape it.
  • Gwen Stefani - Her music is definitely unique. But that doesn't mean it's good. I'd much rather hear Julie Andrews sing "The Lonely Goatherd" than hear Gwen's stupid "Wind It Up" song.
  • "Higher" is a great song - Yes, I love a Creed song. And I love the lyrics of this song. Go figure.
  • Nirvana is overrated - They are widely considered to be the greatest grunge band who shaped the music of the 90's, but I think Kurt Cobain's death helped bring them into the "greatest ever" realm more so than their actual music. I actually liked Stone Temple Pilots' music much more back then - Plush, Vasoline, Interstate Love Song, Creep. And I liked quite a few of Nirvana's songs better when the contestants on Rock Star sang it - Jordis (Heart-Shaped Box), Marty and Dilana (Lithium), Come As You Are (JD). But no one should ever sing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" again (MiG, I'm talking to you! Magni, you have a pass.)
  • Bob Dylan - I understand that he's one of the great songwriters of all time, but I really wish he'd just write and never sing. All I think about when he sings is that he sounds, um, special.
  • J.Lo sang one of the best dance songs ever - As maligned as she is as a singer, I think "Waiting For Tonight" is one of the best dance songs ever. Seriously. Ever.
  • Shakira should stick to Spanish only - Her vibrato comes out way too much when she sings in English ("Whenever, Wherever"!), and those songs kind of suck too. "Ojos Asi" remains her best work, IMO.
  • Monday, January 01, 2007

    Crowe Spotting

    I think I shared an airplane with Cameron Crowe on New Year's Eve. Going from Seattle to Los Angeles, I walked onto the plane on Alaska Airlines, and in the first row in First Class was a man who looked like him. He had two young boys with him and a woman who wasn't Nancy Wilson, but it certainly resembled the filmmaker. When we were walking out of the terminal when the plane, I was trying to find out if it was him without asking him. I should've just asked him.

    So in honor of the great writer/director, here are my Top 10 favorite moments from Cameron Crowe movies:

    10. Stoner Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) wrecks the new sports car of football star Jefferson (Forest Whitaker) while joyriding with Jefferson's little brother in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
    Jefferson's Brother: My brother's gonna kill us! He's gonna kill us! He's gonna kill you and he's gonna kill me, he's gonna kill us!
    Jeff Spicoli: Hey man, just be glad I had fast reflexes!
    Jefferson's Brother: My brother's gonna shit!
    Jeff Spicoli: Make up your mind, dude, is he gonna shit or is he gonna kill us?
    Jefferson's Brother: First he's gonna shit, then he's gonna kill us!
    Jeff Spicoli: Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.

    9. Claire (Kirsten Dunst) makes Drew (Orlando Bloom) a map and correlating soundtrack in Elizabethtown.
    So fitting for a Cameron Crowe movie since soundtracks are so integral to his films.

    8. Spicoli shows up late to class in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) notices Spicoli's empty chair in class and sends someone to find him. Spicoli comes in with his shirt open and a bagel stuffed halfway down his pants. When Mr. Hand asks his reasons for his truancy, Spicoli answers that he just couldn't make it on time. Mr. Hand asks him again why he is continuously late for class, and Spicoli pauses to think about it and then says simply, "I don't know." Mr. Hand stares back and then writes his words on the chalkboard. "I like that. 'I. Don't. Know,'" Mr. Hand says. "'Mr. Hand, will I pass this class?' Gee, Mr. Spicoli, I don't know! You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to leave your words right up here for all my classes to enjoy, giving you full credit of course, Mr. Spicoli." Spicoli grins and says "All right", leaving Mr. Hand to just shake his head.

    7. "SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!" - Jerry Maguire, Jerry Maguire
    Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) requests Jerry (Tom Cruise) to "yell that shit" in order to keep him as a client.

    6. "I gave her my heart; she gave me a pen" - Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything
    Lloyd and Diane's relationship in a nutshell

    5. The band and crew sing "Tiny Dancer" on the bus in Almost Famous
    Nothing like a group sing-along to ease the tension!

    4. Rod Tidwell makes the big catch and loses consciousness after getting hit, but then gets up and celebrates in Jerry Maguire
    Rod's brush with serious injury on the football field turns him into a hero, humanizes him, brings him fame and a big contract and inspires Jerry to go back to Dorothy.

    3. "Am I hallucinating here? Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?"/"Learning about Cuba and having some food" - Mr. Hand and Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    Spicoli gets a pizza delivered in Mr. Hand's history class. Mr. Hand demands to know why Spicoli is using "my" time to eat, and Spicoli rhetorically asks if he's there and Mr. Hand is there, then "wouldn't that make it OUR time?". Mr. Hand agrees and then proceeds to share Spicoli's pizza with the rest of the class while Spicoli looks on like a sad puppy.

    2. Lloyd Dobler (John Cusak) holds up a boombox playing "In Your Eyes" outside of Diane Court's (Ione Sky) window in Say Anything
    Lloyd tries to win Diane back after she dumped him.

    1. "You complete me." - Jerry Maguire, Jerry Maguire
    Jerry says the famous words to Dorothy (Renee Zelwegger), who replies, "Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello."