Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This One's For The Girls

Country night on American Idol always seems to be hit or miss, and tonight did not disappoint.

The hits -

Jordin Sparks got a standing ovation halfway through "A Broken Wing". Looking like a Grecian goddess, Jordin sang the shit out of that song. There was one chink in the armor - an off note while transitioning to the chorus - but she otherwise sounded lovely and absolutely nailed the glory note at the end.

Melinda Doolittle brought a little Tina Turner to her "Trouble Is A Woman". She was FIERCE! And ... she answered all of the criticisms of her in one fell swoop. She finally found a hairstyle that works for her. She dressed cute and trendy. She sang a song that was recorded in the last 10 years. And she cut the "Who Me?!" looks while getting her critiques. Hooray!

Phil Stacey may have saved himself and found himself all at the same time. Singing "Where The Blacktop Ends", he finally showed some spark and personality and gave a complete performance. Country may just be his thing.

The misses -

Sanjaya Malakar brought out the old tricks - hair and song choice - in order to call attention away from his mediocre singing. He sang "Something To Talk About" and definitely gave them something to talk about, but it wasn't good. On the other hand, the Ryan Seacrest/Simon Cowell smackdown surely took attention away from Sanjaya's singing once again. So he probably will be safe again.

Chris Richardson dug deeper holes for himself first by singing "Mayberry" rather poorly and then by sassing off to Simon with the most inane comments. First, Chris said that nasally was a form of singing. Then he said he was purposely singing nasally and that he doesn't sing nasally every week. Jigga what?!

LaKisha Jones foolishly thought that singing the Grammy-award winning song by Idol's most successful country alumnus would be a good idea. She took on Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel" and suffered greatly in comparison. LaKisha shouted the song and did not sound nearly as good as the Farm-Bot. I rarely bestowed good comments on Carrie during her Idol run, but the girl has seriously grown on me, and this monstrosity really makes me appreciate her more. This was not good. LaKisha couldn't sing it as prettily as Carrie does, and she couldn't hold that big glory note nearly as long.

Blake Lewis turned "When The Stars Go Blue" into something that sounded like a cover song by Snow Patrol. He makes everything sound like a British alt-rock song, and it didn't sound remotely country. He also missed some notes. It was middle of the pack tonight and not pimp-spot worthy! But I guess Melinda and Jordin can only close so many times, right?

Sanjaya is going nowhere, so I think it's between Chris, LaKisha and Phil. Chris will either be hurt or helped by his Va. Tech shoutout. Jaded viewers like me and Simon Cowell roll eyes at the pandering. Others may give him a pass for the week. LaKisha's "shocking" boot should be coming any week now. Phil is on borrowed time, but his good performance may keep him around another week. I'm not going to bother to pick one because I'm always wrong!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Latin Night No Es Caliente

The Top 8 on American Idol apparently have the narrowest view of Latin music. Or have no clue what it is. Basically, on Latin Music night, we got three Gloria Estefan songs (Conga, Turn The Beat Around, Rhythm Is Gonna Get You), two Santana songs that were sung by non-Latinos (Smooth and Maria, Maria), a song that was recently done by Michael Buble and the Pussycat Dolls (Sway), a Marc Anthony song (I Need To Know), and exactly one song that was mostly in Spanish (Besame Mucho).

With Jennifer Lopez as the guest mentor, I figured most of the song would be from the late 90's when Ricky Martin, JLo and Enrique Iglesias had all their hits, but where in the world were those songs?! No "Livin' La Vida Loca"?! No "Waiting For Tonight"? No "Hero"? No "Angel" by Jon Secada? What was most shocking was that none of the girls picked "Dreaming Of You" by Selena. I knew no one would have chosen Latin freestyle, a la Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, but Jordin would have been great doing "I Wonder If I Take You Home" or "Head To Toe". Blake could have done "Silent Morning" by Noel. Ah well. Que sera sera! I guess I should just be glad that no one did Christina Aguilera.

The real story of the night was, who else? SANJAYA! And for once, it was warranted. Sanjaya Malakar (in the Pimp Spot!) gave the best vocal of his entire Idol run on, of all things, a Spanish song. I have to give him all the credit in the world for not only attempting a Spanish-language song, "Besame Mucho", but for singing it well. This kid is seriously the most brilliant contestant in Idol history. He's everything Chris Sligh wanted to be.

As for the others, the Gloria Estefan crew (and we would have had a fourth if Gina Glocksen hadn't gotten eliminated the week before ... she was set to do that great Latin classic "Everlasting Love" ) did not fare as well as they have in the past. LaKisha Jones got perhaps the ultimate smack-down during "Conga" when Paula Abdul did not get up out of her seat and dance. That was the thing that most stood out to me (that and the excess skin slipping out of her too tight halter dress ... sorry!). Haley Scarnato's "Turn The Beat Around" was a crowd-pleaser, I guess, but she could barely keep up. The song's fast enough without worrying about breath control because you're walking all over the studio. Jordin Sparks infused her own stylings into "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" and had some nice moments on a boring song.

Melinda Doolittle got her first criticism of the season from Simon Cowell, who found her "Sway" to be boring and old-fashioned. Which it was. And the scary thing is that it made me want to hear the Pussycat Dolls' version. I remember when they sang it on Dancing with the Stars last year. It was quite entertaining. Anyway, Melinda came up with a good snappy comeback, though, when Ryan Seacrest asked her reaction to the criticism. Melinda said, referring to last week's Simon comments, "I'm happy because I think he really wanted to say something bad, and I'm glad he got the chance." Heh!

Simon was not happy with anyone tonight, save for Blake Lewis, who sang "I Need To Know". He thought it was the best song and the best performance of the night. I thought Blake gave one of his best vocals, but it was quite a bit copy-cat, and I find it interesting that JLo became at least the second-straight guest mentor to voice concern about Blake connecting with the lyrics.

My vote for best performance of the night is a bit unexpected and probably unpopular. Definitely unpopular with the judges. I thought Phil Stacey was spot-on with his "Maria Maria". His voice sounded really great on it, although he did crack twice. But the judges had nothing good to say, really, unlike with Chris Richardson, who sang the other Santana song, "Smooth". I really, really think Chris is The Chosen One now. They give him, at times, unwarranted praise, and they praise things he does while knocking other people for doing the same. I thought Chris sounded so boy band-y on his song, but he got universal praise. Gack!

This could be the week that anyone and everyone is vulnerable. I have a feeling it could be LaKisha, who has been slipping more and more each week, but maybe she'll just get a bottom 3 scare. The judges obviously want Phil gone. He and Haley have been just barely avoiding elimination. It will probably be lights out for one of them Wednesday night.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Improv Needs Some Improving

I checked out that new improv show on NBC Monday night, Thank God You're Here. It's an improv "contest" between four comedic actors. Each actor has a skit in which they act with the regular comedians, and after the individual skits, the four of them act together in one scene. The actors are given a costume and pretty much just walk into the skit as designed and just let it flow. Every scene always starts out with the line "Thank God you're here."

The premiere episode had Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld), Bryan Cranston (the dad on Malcolm in the Middle), Joel McHale (the host of The Soup) and Jennifer Coolidge (Mrs. Stifler from American Pie). Bryan Cranston was easily the most natural and funny improv actor amongst the four. Wayne Knight was funny too, in his Newman way. Joel McHale seemed awkward in that setting; the beauty of his humor is mostly in the sarcasm. Jennifer Coolidge was SO out there ... still not sure if that was her in character as a beauty pageant contestant or if she was just so terrified that she said the first random thing that popped into her head. Which made it pretty damn funny. Example of random: She was asked to name her dream dinner date companion, and she answered Chewbacca.

Bryan Cranston relied on smooching for most of his laughs in both skits. In his solo skit, which had him as a British rock singer (who reminded me of Constantine Maroulis in his "rawker" persona), he kissed two men and two women. In the ensemble skit, he planted one on one of the regular male comics while playing an (ambiguously?) gay superhero.

Wayne Knight also had some hilarious moments in the ensemble skit as a Human Cockroach superhero, mostly unintentional due to wardrobe malfunctions. First, his antennas kept coming off, which he improv'd to force blindness. Then at the end of the skit, his green briefs fell to his ankles. Hah!

While there were those laugh-out-loud moments (Jennifer Coolidge as a beauty pageant contestant saying she wanted to rid the world of "dry ice" and talking about her experience in Greece and how the Greek men like each other; Bryan Cranston in a pre-taped skit as a policeman laciviously looking up and down a TV news reporter who was interviewing him; Mo'Nique bitching about having a skinny model in a game show skit and then later doing a take-off of "Macarthur Park" at the end of her skit: "someone left the popcorn in the microwave"; Joel McHale drinking a huge bottle of tequila in a customs office), the show suffers from the improv regulars relying on and sticking to a script. Mo'Nique got screwed from this in the second hour of the show, when she would improv something, and the regulars wouldn't take it to where she was leading it. They negated her instead and took it the way it was scripted to. That belies the whole point of improv, no?

To sum it up, it's a good show to watch if you're looking for mindless TV when there's nothing else on or if you're tired of having to dissect everything to death in order to understand it (LOST!). You may get some gems, like the superhero skit. Jason Alexander (George Costanza) is going to be a future guest, and the promo they have with him in a Star Trek scene looks very promising.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Gina Smiles Though Her Heart Is Aching

Resident "rock chick" Gina Glocksen became the latest to be voted off American Idol, going out in ninth place. Gina was out of her element during Standards night but sang a lovely, understated rendition of "Smile", which was highly appropriate in the sing-out:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

I was impressed Gina was even able to sing most of this, much less smile through it, considering the sobbing breakdown she had when she was revealed as the bootee. Surviving the bottom three once again were Phil Stacey and Haley Scarnato, both of whom are running on borrowed time. And, of course, Sanjaya Malakar, who was in the middle three in voting with Blake Lewis and Chris Richardson. The top three were revealed as Jordin Sparks, Melinda Doolittle and LaKisha Jones.

Prior to elimination, we were "treated" to a performance by Michael Buble, who seemed as if they had literally pulled him out of a bar and begged him to sing in place of an ill Tony Bennett. I like Michael Buble, but that performance was pretty awful. Big props to him for filling in, but yikes. I guess "Feelin' Good" has been banned from the show, but he should have sung "Home" instead of whatever the hell he was trying to sing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing

Standards night on American Idol has traditionally brought out some of the most memorable performances in Idol history - Kelly Clarkson's "Stuff Like That There" (aka probably the greatest performance in Idol history), Justin Guarini's "Route 66", Katharine McPhee's "Someone To Watch Over Me", and others.

This season's standards night added another to the list - Melinda Doolittle's "I Got Rhythm", which showcased all that is great about Melinda. It was sung flawlessly and delivered with a sassy and saucy attitude. She is one contestant who truly understands what she is singing and conveys it to the audience.

The rest of the contestants? Well, I don't think we'll be yearning to see these performances again like season 1's Big Band night. They all got it right that year. They dressed in the era, they sang in the era's style, they all entertained, even RJ the Milkman who forgot the words. This year? No one really dressed the part (Jordin, Gina, Chris), some didn't even try to sing the part (CHRIS!). Sanjaya Malakar probably had one of the better grasps of the era, scarily enough.

On the opposite end of the Melinda connecting to the music spectrum tonight was Haley Scarnato, who looked stunning in a short green dress and vamped up "Ain't Misbehavin'" with all the authenticity of Miss Montana. The cutesy sex kitten thing will surely get her votes (just ask the guys in the front row who could barely contain their enthusiasm), but she could have delivered a McPhee-worthy performance with the right ballad. I guess credit her for not doing the predictable.

LaKisha Jones went predictable, singing "Stormy Weather" in about the same way she sings all of the other bluesy songs she's done so far. And she continued to blow off the good advice of the guest mentors. Tony Bennett suggested that she end on the big glory note and forget about the "ain't no sunshine when he's gone" riff, but stubborn LaKisha kept it in. Okay, diva!

Gina Glocksen surprised a little with an understated "Smile", complete with tamed almost bouffant hairdo paired with rocker girl fishnet stockings and boots. She could have added a little bit more emotion into the song, and it wasn't her best vocally, but it was still pretty good.

Jordin Sparks saved herself with one of the longest glory notes in Idol history at the end of her "On A Clear Day". She had major breath control issues throughout the song prior to that. It was very distracting to hear her wheezing up there. Her outfit was a bit distracting as well. She was dressed in a white shirt with short black vest-ish top, black pants and tennis shoes. Oy.

The biggest offender in the ignoring the era department was Chris Richardson, who not only showed up in trendily-holed jeans with suspenders hanging down, sneakers and a K-Fedora. And that's just his look. He sang "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" as if he were singing "I Don't Want To Be" or "Geek in the Pink" or "Don't Speak". While the judges were sucking up to the apparent Chosen One for not compromising himself and his style, I was more annoyed that he didn't stick to the theme in his style of singing. But I'm a stickler for that.

I would have thought Blake Lewis would be the one to try to modernize his song, but he more or less sang "Mack The Knife" in the standards style, albeit more cheesy and lounge lizardy. It was probably his weakest performance to date.

Phil Stacey dressed the part with a pinstripe suit, but this would have been the week to put a hat on. He looked creepy and sounded, as Simon said, as if he were in a funeral parlor. His "Night and Day" was dreary and boring. He's in big-time danger this week, and I think he'll be the one to go.

Sanjaya Malakar may also be in real danger for the first time. He did not have a spectacular flame-out or do anything completely outrageous except dance with Paula, which was more cute than You-Really-Got-Me crazy. He even sounded pretty good in this genre. He was pretty average, which is usually a bad thing on this show.

So to see some real Idol standards performances, start here with Kelly Clarkson's "Stuff Like That There":

Justin's "Route 66":

Tamyra Gray's "Minnie the Moocher":

Katharine's "Someone To Watch Over Me":

Paris Bennett's "Fever":

Fantasia's "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life":

LaToya London's "Don't Rain On My Parade":

Monday, April 02, 2007

My Humps?!

"My Humps" by Black Eyed Peas is one of those songs that make you lose IQ points when you hear it. So imagine my surprise to hear that Alanis Morisette has done a cover of it. Listen to it without the video, and you'll go WTF?! Then listen to it with the video, and you'll see it way differently.

My hump, my hump, my hump. My lovely lady lumps. Check it out!