Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Feelin' Good

After a rough first outing on the men's side, the Top 10 guys rebounded with a stronger showing on Tuesday. AJ Tabaldo delivered a terrific take on "Feelin' Good", which was a really appropriate song choice, as watching AJ just makes you smile and feel good. He brings a joy to the stage that is rarely seen on the show.

Blake Lewis once again impressed with the song choice, singing Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity", even if his vocals once again did not quite live up to the high quality of the song choice. Chris Richardson may have turned in the best showing of the night with Jason Mraz's "Geek in the Pink", which was the perfect song choice for his voice. Chris Sligh also picked a good song once again, singing Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble".

Brandon Rogers picked a good song as well, with "Time After Time", but he failed to make much of an impression and instead showed why he's been a backup singer all this time.

Jared Cotter, my favorite last week, went down a few notches with an ordinary performance of "Let's Get It On". He may stick around, though, for the hot factor and the comedy factor. First, he dedicated the performance to ... brace yourself ... his parents. HA! Then he and the judges turned the show into an episode of Three's Company with all the sexual double entendres. Simon said his performance reminded him of something that you would see on the Love Boat if they had a cabaret singer, and Jared said "That would have been a great Love Boat". HA! again.

Sanjaya Malakar and Nick Pedro each decided to sing a jazzy club song for whatever reason. Sanjaya did "Steppin' Out With My Baby" and put everyone to sleep for the second consecutive week. And, maybe even worse, resembled Michael Jackson. He, at least, dressed appropriately or his song, unlike Nick, who looked like he just came from the office and was singing in a karaoke bar. Paula praised Nick's tone, but I thought his tone was all kinds of wrong on this song.

With "Mustang Sally", which even Sanjaya would have done ok with, Sundance Head was lightyears better than his previous showings, but that really isn't saying much. Naturally, the judges gave him a tongue-bath. Ugh. They're letting this dude coast on one good audition.

A TiVo mishap made me miss Phil Stacey's performance of "Missing You", and I'm not really that broken up about not seeing his creepy bald head, to be honest.

I think Nick and Jared are on their way out, although it could easily be Brandon instead of Jared. For some god-forsaken reason, Sundance and Sanjaya are pulling in the votes.

On to the women ...

I am officially on the Melinda Doolittle train. I. LOVE. HER. LOVE HER! Her "My Funny Valentine" should be right up there amongst the all-time Idol greats. That was just flat-out awesome. Her arrangement, runs and pitch were just pefect. I was in awe.

Next to Melinda, everyone else was just pretty good to pretty bad. In the pretty good department were LaKisha Jones, who couldn't come close to her performance last week and who could have done better, performance-wise, with "Midnight Train To Georgia"; Stephanie Edwards, who also did well but could have done better on "Dangerously In Love"; Jordin Sparks, who is totally sweet and has a pretty voice but had breath and low register issues on "Reflection"; Sabrina Sloan, who sang "All The Man That I Need" a bit too scream-y for my tastes; and Gina Glocksen, who showed her pipes and overcame some bad backup singers on "Alone".

Leslie Hunt, I guess, was middle-of-the-road with "Feelin' Good". I guess it was more "Feelin' Okay". I really hated her scatting at the end.

Pretty bad were Antonella Barba who crazily thought she could sing Celine Dion ("Because You Loved Me") and "sang" with no emotion whatsoever and with no concept of pitch; Alaina Alexander, who started off pretty well but could not finish in tune on "Not Ready To Make Nice"; and Haley Scarnato, who had no soul on "Queen of the Night".

As bad as she is, Antonella is one of the most talked-about contestants (for the wrong reasons), so I don't think she is going anywhere this week. I think it will be Alaina and Haley, with Leslie being a possibility as well.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Idol 6 Semis Start With A Whimper

It's going to be a long season of American Idol if tonight's Top 12 Guys show is any indication. We were "treated" to muffled sound mixing, predictable and overused song choices, horrific falsettos, bland and uninspired performances and not only back-talking to Simon Cowell but brown-nosing Simon Cowell as well.

The predictable and overused song choices:
*Careless Whisper (Paul Kim)
*Rock With You (Brandon Rogers)
*Back At One (Jared Cotter)

The horrific falsettos:
*Rudy Cardenas on "Free Ride" (horrific dancing too)
*Paul Kim on "Careless Whisper"
*Blake Lewis on "Somewhere Only We Know"

The bland and uninspired performances:
*Sundance Head singing "Knights In White Satin"
*Nick Pedro slacking his way through "Now and Forever"
*Sanjaya Malikar boring everyone with a sweetly sung but really snooze-worthy "Knocks Me Off My Feet" while ironically singing the line "I don't want to bore you"

The back-talking:
*Chris Sligh, who took things too far when he snarked on Simon ("Just because it's not Il Divo or the Teletubbies doesn't mean it's not good" or something like that). And Simon had been barely critical to him. Chris' schtick is going to grow old FAST. And he's too calculating. So much so that everything that he does will start to ring false. I don't particularly like that in an Idol contestant. This ain't Survivor, yo.

The brown-nosing:
*Phil Stacey, who agreed with Simon's less lavish praise instead of Paula and Randy's glowing praise. But I agree with Simon and Phil. It was good, but it wasn't the best vocal of the night. That one glory note doesn't erase the bad and dreary opening.

And who had the best vocal of the night? In my opinion, it was Jared Cotter, who invoked images of Brian McKnight with his smooth as butter voice. It was almost Blake Lewis, who got super double bonus points for choosing "Somewhere Only We Know" but then lost favor with me by blanking on the lyrics and then butchering the falsetto. A.J. Tabaldo also showed good vocals and gave the most fun performance of the night. Chris Sligh gave a good performance but lost me at his inappropriate back-talk. He should've saved it for when Simon really criticized him unfairly. Cowell was PISSED, and he won't likely forget it.

I predict Rudy and Nick will be the ones on their way out on Thursday, but it really should be between Rudy, Paul and Sundance.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Best of the TAR Best?

The Amazing Race premiered its 11th season tonight, with 11 All-Star teams competing for the $1 million dollar prize. Now, when they say All-Star, I guess it just depends on your definition of All-Star because I would never in a million years consider Kentucky (David and Mary) to be a strong team. They got as far as they did last season thanks to the Cho Bros and are presumably on the show because they were well-liked by the public. There is only one previous winner in All-Stars - Uchenna and Joyce. I don't know if other winners were even asked (apprently Chip/Kim and the Hippies weren't), but since the winners aren't always the most likeable (hello Flo/Zach and Freddy/Kendra) or particularly memorable (hello multitude of all-male teams like Brennan and Rob and whoever the heck won it in December), I'm okay with it not including them.

The most All-Star team of the All-Stars is the omni-present Romber. This will be the fifth CBS reality show for Rob and Amber - they each had two turns on Survivor and now two turns on TAR, plus their televised wedding (BARF). But, to their credit, as much of fame whores they are, at least they're darned competitive. They are a good team and proved it with their first-place finish on the first leg.

The most FABULOUS team is Oswald and Danny, aka the Cha Cha Chas. They started off the race at the front of the pack and finished it in second place after the first leg. They are my all-time favorite team. I just love their charm, humor, attitude and how much they embrace the experiences. One of their most memorable moments during their initial season was when they took time out to go shopping. Hee! This year, they've already gotten off some good one-liners: "I told you - less martinis and more cardio"; "I hear you guys have your own cable channel" (to Rob and Amber); "Yes, I know who Rob and Amber are because I live on this planet"; "We chose to do wrangle it because I've always wanted a career in beauty. So if I can cut the nails of a horse, I can surely cut someone's hair and give them a manicure." Haha. They even got this double entendre in there: "Keep stroking me; I like it."

I've always underestimated older couple Teri and Ian, who came in second in season 3 just 2 minutes short of the victory. I foolishly underestimated them again, and they came in third in this leg. Now that's amazing.

Coming in fourth was a newly-formed All-Star team of Eric and Danielle from Season 9. Eric came in second and Danielle was one of the two bartender ditzes. They met on the show and fell in love. Oh brother. They started off poorly but caught towards the end when other teams goofed.

Team Guido (3rd place, season 1) placed fifth, followed by the Beauty Queens from last season in a surprisingly middle-of-the-pack sixth. Uchenna & Joyce were non-entities in placing seventh. Charla & Mirna started the race strong but grabbed a local to help and got sent to the wrong park entrance and fell way behind, finishing eighth, just barely ahead of David & Mary, who unveiled their evil side and lied to the Beauty Queens at the airport. Kentucky also had a funny moment at the airport when David called Amber "Kim". Considering the egos on Romber, I couldn't help but laugh at seeing their egos knocked down a peg.

Competing for last place were Kevin & Drew (season 1) and Jon Vito & Jill (season 3, I think?). Jon Vito and Jill were in the Top 3 up until they had to drive to the park, and, like Charla and Mirna, they brought someone along to show them the way. They also got sent the wrong way (which I hope puts an end to having all these ferns on the show) and ended up losing. Kevin and Drew were extremely lucky at JV and Jill's misfortune because they had plenty of their own, with one of them (sorry, not sure which is which) taking a big tumble and hurting his knee and shoulder and their tire busting up towards the end. I don't think they are long for this race - if Charla with her tiny legs can outrun one of them, they're really not in good physical shape.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What Not To Sing

With the sixth season of American Idol going into full swing with the first semifinal rounds starting Tuesday, I thought it would be a good time to put out a plea to the contestants to avoid the following songs. Trust me, it's for your own good.

*Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John - Last season was the first time a contestant didn't sing this song on the show, then they had to sic it on us at the finale as a joke with Clay Aiken and his doppleganger. Someone needs to stick a fork in this song already. If you're going to sing Elton John, how about Your Song? Seriously, how come no one's done Your Song yet?!

*All In Love Is Fair by Stevie Wonder - No one has ever gotten a good review on this song, and Katharine McPhee was lucky she was coming off a sensational performance the week prior (not to mention lucky that almost everyone else stunk that night).

*My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder - Again, I've yet to hear any good reviews for anyone who has done this song

*Come to think of it, how about not doing ANY Stevie Wonder songs unless it's a Stevie Wonder night. And if you HAVE to do Stevie, do a song that hasn't been overdone to death, like maybe "I Believe When I Fall In Love" or even "Uptight (Everything's Alright)"

*Against All Odds by Phil Collins - way overdone

*I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor - Simon hates the song, and anyone who does it will invoke the dreaded karaoke comparison (see: Lopez, Alexis)

*Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers - Simon's favorite song, and he probably has high standards for it. I don't think anyone has been able to do it justice yet, especially Pickler! Plus, it's kinda boring.

*You Keep Me Hangin' On by The Supremes - The song choice of death, especially if sung in the Top 12 show. Vanessa Olivarez and Leah LaBelle got booted in consecutive years while singing this song at the same stage of the competition.

*Breathe by Faith Hill - It's a rangy song that no one has been able to do well yet.

*Unbreak My Heart by Toni Braxton - No one has ever advanced while singing this song

*Come To My Window by Melissa Ethridge - ditto the above (argh poor robbed Patrick Hall!)

*Anything by Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. First of all, we don't need to hear Randy puff his chest about how he worked with them. Second of all, you can't outsing them, so don't even try.

*And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going - Again, you cannot possibly outsing JHud on this song, so don't even try.

*Any of Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood's famous songs - You don't want to invoke the comparison to a former Idol winner. Just ask Lisa Tucker.

I just hope the contestants try some new things, especially in the semifinal rounds where they are not bound by themes or a lone piano accompaniment anymore (poor ghetto AI 1 and 2). Bo Bice busting out "Whipping Post", Chris Daughtry singing a Fuel song, hell, even Corey Clark singing "Foolish Heart" - that's the kind of different but effective stuff I'd like to see. (But don't do something stupid like "Copacabana"!)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

AI6 Top 24 Revealed

The Top 24 of American Idol Season 6 was revealed tonight, and lord if I even know who half of them are. In typical American Idol fashion, many of the finalists were shown for the first time in the reveal episode while far too many audition minutes were spent on Hollywood round cannon fodder like Canadian girl Jory, country girl Baylie Brown, Pickler 2.0 girl Jamie Lynn, boot camp girl Porcelana, no-parental-affection boy Matt, and, sadly, hottie teenager Jenry.

Some of the early stars did make the cut, though. Here is the list of the Top 24:

Guys
Rudy Cardenas, Jared Cotter, Jason "Sundance" Head, Paul Kim, Blake Lewis, Sanjaya Malakar, Nicholas Pedro, Chris Richardson, Brandon Rogers, Chris Sligh, Philip Stacy, and A.J. Tabaldo.

Girls
Alaina Alexander, Antonella Barba, Melinda Doolittle, Stephanie Edwards, Gina Glocksen, Leslie Hunt, Lakisha Jones, Amy Krebs, Haley Scarnato, Sabrina Sloan, Jordin Sparks, and Nicole Tranquillo.

We've seen more of the men than the women. The unknown men are Jared Cotter, who looks like he could be Jenry's older brother, and A.J. Tabaldo. On the women's side, however, we saw for the first time Stephanie Edwards, Leslie Hunt, Amy Krebs, Sabrina Sloan and Nicole Tranquillo. I can't tell the difference between Alaina Alexander and Haley Scarnato other than the fact that Alaina SUCKED! in her last audition.

Speaking of sucked, Sundance Head ... you better have had one amazing last audition to justify you getting in the Top 24 because your other two Hollywood auditions were horrible.

Will any of the unkowns pull a Kelly Clarkson and overcome the lack of exposure? They'd have to get through The Chosen One (Sundance) first, and then try to get through the guy I'm calling right now to win the whole thing - Chris Sligh. Personally, I'm rooting for a battle of the backup singers - Melinda Doolittle vs. Brandon Rogers in the finale.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Grammy Moments

Country music dominated the 2007 Grammy Awards show, with the Dixie Chicks picking up five awards, including the three major awards - Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year - and American Idol season 4 winner Carrie Underwood winning Best New Artist. But, as usual, it was the performances, not so much the winners, that were the big highlights of the night.

The Highlights
*Mary J. Blige - She won three Grammys (and thanked 55 people in one of her speeches!), turned her "Be Without You" into an awesome Big Band-era torch song and then later joined Ludacris and Earth Wind & Fire on "Runaway Love". She was outstanding, both vocally and performance-wise.
*Christina Aguilera - In a surprise tribute to the late James Brown, she tore up "This Is A Man's World", although she did hit one scary note (right after I said out loud "Damn. She can sang!" Ha!)
*Corinne Bailey Rae/John Legend/John Mayer - This wasn't really a collaboration, as each sang solos ("Like A Star", "Coming Home", and "Gravity", respectively) but the songs were great, particularly John Legend's. He just sold me his album with this performance. He is terrific.
*Justin Timberlake - Aside from that scary close-up self-camera, I thought he really showed off his talent, playing piano on "What Goes Around", playing guitar on "Ain't No Sunshine" and then doing "My Love" with the Robyn Troup, the winner of the "My Grammy Moment" contest, who, by the way, was pretty dang good, especially as a newbie jumping in immediately after being declared the winner. I guess it's good that she didn't have any chance to think about what was happening or she may have freaked out. She looked like a pro out there. Good for her!
*Chris Brown's dancing - This kid can straight-up dance. In fact, I think he's a better dancer than singer. Because his singing ... uhh ... he sang? Ah well. Singing or not, he's a great entertainer, and those two little kids who came out and danced on "Run It" - SO CUTE! And so good!
*The draping of James Brown's cape over the microphone stand in tribute.
*Prince gracing us with three words while introducing Beyonce and then buying a commercial during the broadcast to thank the fans watching and the fans at the Super Bowl for braving the rain.

The Disappointing
*Not everyone else was as gracious to the fans as Prince. Carrie Underwood took the time to thank American Idol, saying that she wouldn't be here without the show and Simon Fuller, but she REALLY wouldn't be there without the fans who voted for her to be the Idol. As much grief as Kelly Clarkson got for not thanking Idol when she won her Grammys, I thought it was more glaring that Carrie didn't thank her fans. And this is not coming from a bitter fan who is upset at not getting thanked. I never voted for her, after all! (And yes, I realize that she usually does thank the fans, but she didn't here, and it was glaring to me.)
*Gnarls Barkley's performance - I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the big climax to the song, and it never came. The song started out slow with a dramatic drum beat. Cee-Lo began on the small stage in the middle of the floor and then made his way to the main stage, and I was waiting for the song to just KICK IT when he got on stage, and it just stayed at the same pace. BLAH!
*Red Hot Chili Peppers - The teasers touted a performance that would have you talking about it tomorrow, so I was expecting something totally outrageous, but the big to-do ended up being the confetti that flowed during their song "Snow". Ooooh. Like I've never seen THAT before.
*The Police - Not that they weren't good ... in fact they sounded just as good now as they did back then, and Sting's guns were impressive. But I actually forgot all about it shortly after it happened. That's a little disappointing. I'll have to rewatch it.

The Funny
*Chris Rock: "The next band had their jocks in socks way before Justin put his [BLEEP] in a box"
*David Spade, with Rihanna: "David Bowie and Iman couldn't be here tonight, so we were called in at the last second."
*Common telling Kanye West that they were all glad he won the Grammy last year because they were tired of him crying about not winning.
*Scarlett Johanson saying she's recording an album
*Al Gore talking about how great it is that the music industry is supporting the environment ... right after the confetti rain. Not to mention the fact that he was giving an award to a band his wife probably would have tried to nail with the PROC. If only Prince had been up for this award. That would've been great.

The WTF
*Smokey Robinson's face - Botox, anyone? His face didn't move! And he had way less wrinkles than Lionel Richie, who is quite younger than Smokey.
*Alyson Hannigan's skin - Mystic tan overdose?
*Don Henley's response to Scarlet Johannson when she asked if he had any advice for her in recording her album: "NO." Awkward!!!!!

The Annoying
*Natalie Maines - Seriously, just shut up and sing. Stop talking. You only make matters worse every time you open your mouth. I had no real issue with your band winning Song of the Year, and then you had to muck it up when you won Country Album of the Year by going up on stage and going "Heh. Heh." Get some class, lady! Oh, and stop playing the victim, while you're at it. You said what you said, so deal with it. By the time they won Album of the Year, she went up on stage and said that she was humbled, to which I snorted and rolled my eyes. At least one of the Chicks showed some class, thanking the fans along the way.
*The way-too-many shots of the three finalists in the Sing-With-Justin contest

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Purple Reign

An unfortunate thing happened halfway through today's Super Bowl. Halftime ended.

Prince performed a short set during halftime in what pretty much looked like a monsoon. With all the lights and pyro and smoke, not to mention the electric guitar he was KILLING, I would not have blamed him for a mediocre performance under those conditions. Hell, I wouldn't have blamed him if he pulled out altogether, but the man went out there and provided one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows in recent memory.

On a stage shaped like his symbol, he opened with "Let's Go Crazy", then was joined by the Florida A&M marching band on "Baby I'm A Star", which segued nicely into "Proud Mary", then back to "Baby I'm A Star". Then he did a bit of "All Along The Watchtower" with Hendrix licks and segued into "The Best Of You" by the Foo Fighters. Considering that Prince has hundreds of songs in his catalogue, I thought it was interesting and way cool that he'd do those covers. I never would've thought he'd sing Foo Fighters, but it was really good, and he really made it his own. He closed, appropriately, with "Purple Rain", and I wish he had done it like he usually does in concert - for about 15 minutes - because I did not want the show to end.

Oh, and there was this football game. The Colts won. The Anointed One (Peyton Manning) now has the accolades to back up the hype. Rex Grossman will still be maligned in Chicago, even though it's not really his fault that every time the Bears forced or recovered a fumble, his team coughed it right back up. TWICE!

On the commercial front, the only one that really stood out for me was the rock, scissors, paper beer commercial where the two guys played for the last beer and the one guy threw a rock at the other guy's head to make him fall and let go of the beer.