Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AI10: Top 11 Redux - Don't Set Me On Fire I'm Only The Piano Player

I'm not a fan of Elton John night on American Idol. I just think his songs are too kitschy or too ballady to make for a good two hours of television on a reality singing competition. So when American Idol announced this theme (after first announcing it would be 80's week), I was none too pleased. But after a few surprisingly entertaining performances and a piano being set on fire onstage, I'm willing to reconsider my pre-hate of this theme week.

Scotty McCreery - "Country Comfort"
Of COURSE Scotty would do "Country Comfort". Of course. And it sounds like all the other songs Scotty has done on this show. He's very good, but it's starting to get a little bit tedious. Although I do think that the most successful contestants are the ones who know exactly who they are, I do want to see Scotty step out of the box a little bit moving forward.
Score: 7.5

Naima Adedapo - "I'm Still Standing"
While I applaud her efforts at making the song her own, it would be nice if she actually made it her own and not pretended to be a Jamaican woman singing this song with a faux accent. Bitch, you're from MILWAUKEE. And the performance dragged about halfway through. Nadia Turner tried to reggae Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" in Season 4, and it put her in the bottom 2. With two people leaving this week, Naima's toast.
Score: 4.0

Paul McDonald - "Rocket Man"
This actually started out promising. Paul didn't use the word "yo" while addressing the crowd before he started singing. He was playing his guitar, so the drunk uncle dance moves didn't come out. And then the chorus came. Oh dear. He seriously has the weakest voice of everyone in the competition, and that last line showcased that in a big way. The whispered "time" made me convulse with laughter.
Score: 4.75

Pia Toscano - "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me"
Oh. This song. Sigh. I guess it wouldn't be Idol without someone singing this song. And I guess it wouldn't be Idol Season 10 without Pia singing a ballad. But, to be fair, what choice does she have on Elton John week?! Anything up-tempo by Elton John would be a disaster for her. I can't say anything about her vocals - they are flawless!
Score: 7.25

Stefano Langone - "Tiny Dancer"
Hold me close, young Tony Danza! Now THAT would have gotten me to vote for Stefano. Actually, this was a lot better than I expected it to be, although I don't like how chopped up the song had to be to fit into the allotted time. It's a song that needs to build to really become as epic as it is, and it didn't have time to build.
Score: 6.5

Lauren Alaina - "Candle In The Wind"
This is Lauren's first ballad on the live stage. And now I see why she's stuck to the up-tempo songs. I thought she sounded too breathy, and there was a disconnect for me in that I didn't think she felt the lyrics whatsoever. She smiled a few times and side-eyed the camera. On this song, which Elton John wrote about the death of Marilyn Monroe, and then dedicated to Ryan White the day before he died, and then sang at Princess Diana's funeral. YOU DO NOT SMILE EVER. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Lauren has an evil streak in her. In the show's opening flashback, they showed her saying, "If they use their save, two people go home next week" and then cackling.
Score: 6.0

James Durbin - "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting"
After seeing Britney Spears lip-synch on Jimmy Kimmel while moving around the stage at about 1/4 the speed of James on this song, I give James so much credit for his breath control. I really enjoyed this, flaming pianos and poser rock jumps and all. It was a show!
Score: 8.25

Thia Megia - "Daniel"
OMG what key is she singing in? Ohhhh, it's the key of GTFO!
Score: 3.5

Casey Abrams - "Your Song"
Casey, it isn't your beard that makes your scary. It's the way you scream and growl and look into the camera like you want to kill us. I'm so glad that went away along with the beard ... for most of the song, anyway! That was the first time I've liked Casey since he brought out the upright bass. Funny what a non-serial killer look into the camera will do for you, huh?
Score: 7.75

Jacob Lusk - "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word"
This is one of my least favorite, most snoozy Elton John songs that always gets done on Idol. So Jacob's starting out with a negative. And then he broke out the ugly crying face the whole song while standing in leftover fog from Adam Lambert's "Mad World" finale performance two seasons ago. Ehhh.
Score: 6.0

Haley Reinhart - "Benny & The Jets"
This started out kind of Fabulous Bakers Boys-ish, and I was really starting to like it, and then she slid off the piano and started waving her arms in the air and morphing quickly into dive piano bar territory. But yet, I kind of enjoyed it. Her growls work so much better on this song, for you, for me.
Score: 7.5

Bottom 3 prediction: Naima, Thia, Jacob (OMG all the minorities! CUE ELTON JOHN!)
Going home: Naima, Thia

Friday, March 25, 2011

AI10 Top 11 Results: Judges Save The Last Dance For Casey

Executive producer/puppet master Nigel Lythgoe tweeted this morning about a shocking result show: "#Spoiler Alert: Shocking #AmericanIdol news tonight!!!"

And boy was it ever shocking!

To most people, anyway. I actually called this result this morning, tweeting: "Conspiracy theory of the day: Idol doesn't want to deal w/ medical bills & missing performances on tour so Casey (Abrams) will be eliminated today." But I didn't call the judges not getting the memo. Pfffft. They didn't even take 30 seconds into Casey's song to use the only save of the season and then proceed to nearly put Casey back into the hospital from shock. Seriously, I thought he was going to have a heart attack up there. He was shaking, pale, having shortness of breath, screaming (which is not unusual). Talk about drama!

(and lol please. That was so manufactured on the production end.)

The whole results show was kind of crazy and action-packed. After some wtf segment featuring Marc Anthony and in-ear monitors, the Idols did the most predictable group sing ever - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" - which went completely off the rails towards the end when James Durbin and Jacob Lusk competed for a trophy for "Best Impersonation of a Tortured Cat." And then all of a sudden, all was well with the world because BOOM - out comes Stevie Wonder! Singing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and then "Happy Birthday To You" to Steven Tyler!

After Scotty McCreery, Pia Toscano and Lauren Alaina were briefly bamboozled by Ryan Seacrest before being told they were going on the summer tour, it was back to the filler. Sugarland sang their annoying "Stuck Like Glue" song with Jennifer Nettles rapping while wearing something straight out of old 60's Batman shows. Then a James Durbin pimp package all about wrestling that was the perfect segue into James and Paul McDonald's results. Seacrest shocked the audience by telling them, "Both of you guys are not safe tonight ....... I mean you're REALLY not safe tonight", which led to a grand entrance (set to "Eye of the Tiger") by Hulk Hogan, which sent James into a huge fanboi tizzy.

Jacob Lusk, Thia Megia and Stefano Langone got their results next, and only Jacob was safe amongst that group. Naima Adedapo, Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams got their results next, and while everyone expected Casey to be first to be sent back to safety, he ended up being in the bottom 3. So with Casey, Thia and Stefano on the stools, Jennifer Hudson (or as Ryan Seacrest called her, "our only Idol winner with an Oscar". Because, you know, 7th place is only a few spots away from 1st. Close enough!) returned to the Idol stage to sing her lead single from her latest album, "Where You At". J-Hud looked amazing and sounded great, and her adorable "Feels good to be home!" yelp seconds after a FIERCE look at the end of the song was awesome, but that song is dullsville (sorry, Jennifer!). And it needed more George Huff, who was singing backup but got no screen time till after the song ended.

And then back to results - Thia was sent back to safety, then Casey was announced as the lowest vote-getter, eliciting cries of dismay from the audience, a raised eyebrow from James, a fake "Wow" from Randy Jackson, dropped jaws from the other contestants, and some bleeped-out cussing from either Casey or Stefano. So Casey had to sing for his life, and he didn't even finish two lines from "I Don't Need No Doctor" before Seacrest started walking back on stage to stop the performance and save Casey from elimination.

Casey nearly dropped dead right there and then was stammering about, asking why the judges would do that and if they were joking. It really was great television. And then Ryan announced that it was pre-determined that the tour would be a Top 11 instead of the standard Top 10, and I laughed at how that all played out so conveniently. Well played, Idol. Well played.

Next week's theme is 80's music. Didn't we basically have this last week with Music from the year they were born? Fantasia will be returning to the show to sing "Collard Greens & Cornbread", and will.i.am and Jamie Foxx will be singing "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)." I am SO disappointed that the theme night isn't going to be "Music About Food". What a wasted opportunity.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

AI10 Top 11: It's The Same Old Song

Despite earlier claims that the American Idol contestants would not have to sing songs outside their genre, the show brought back an old Idol staple - Motown night! To be honest, I was looking forward to possibly seeing the Idols having to step outside their comfort zones. I feel like that's an Idol rite of passage, and the great contestants are able to do songs in any genre and make it their own.

The only contestants to really do it, though, were Scotty McCreery, who turned "For Once In My Life" into a country song; Paul McDonald, who sang a Rod Stewart-esque "Tracks Of My Tears"; and Naima Adedapo, who put African dance at the end of "Dancing In The Street". Everyone else picked the same old Motown songs that get sung all the time on Idol - including songs that have historically put almost every singer in the bottom 3 ("You Keep Me Hanging On" - auto elimination for a female singer. "Heat Wave" - auto bottom 3.) and songs that previous contestants have had "moments" with - "Hello" and "Tracks Of My Tears". Honestly, I don't know why these people don't learn their Idol history before picking songs.

Casey Abrams - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye
Here we go again - another Casey axe murderer performance. Grunting, growling, menacing walk, intense stares into the camera ... check, check, check, check. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Score: 5.5

Thia Megia - "Heat Wave" by Martha & the Vandellas
We didn't quite get the recycled Burger King flames that Kimberley Locke and Jennifer Hudson got when they sang this song, but I bet we do get the recycled bottom 3 slot that people who sing this song usually get! Bonus points to Thia for going up-tempo, but she also performed it like she was at a junior high talent show. And I think she kept repeating the same lines. I don't think the blood pressure line comes up more than once in the original.
Score: 5.5

Jacob Lusk - "You're All I Need To Get By" by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
It started off sooooo slow with the lousy backup singers, I was starting to get bored, but then eventually it became my favorite Jacob performance of the season. Although it's much better heard than seen because his dancing and facial expressions were so lulzy. I'm glad he toned down the vocal antics but he should also work a bit on toning down the hammy movements.
Score: 8.0

Lauren Alaina - "You Keep Me Hanging On" by The Supremes
This song eliminated Vanessa Olivarez and Leah LaBelle in Seasons 2 and 3, respectively, then Blake Lewis broke the curse in Season 6. I don't think poor persecuted Lauren has anything to worry about, and she did a pretty good job on this song, although I cringed at the "And there ain't nothing I can do about it" spoken line.
Score: 7.5

Stefano Langone - "Hello" by Lionel Richie
Well this just dropped Stefano from first last week to one of the worst this week. He sounded like a lounge singer and totally forgot the lyrics and had to sing in circles. And then Chef Gordon Ramsey cracked on his mom's cooking. Ouch. On a more positive note, the last falsetto note was nice, and he kept his eyes more open (although I think it was better closed. Open, he looked constipated.). And I cannot believe that he has never heard this song before. Which makes me wonder just who is picking these songs ...
Score: 5.0

Haley Reinhart - "You Really Got A Hold On Me" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Oh yikes. Schlumping down the staircase and around the stage, moving around like she got into Paul's stash, growly sex kitten voice, Haley Scarnato hot pants ..... Bye, Haley!
Score: 4.5

Scotty McCreery - "For Once In My Life" by Stevie Wonder
Finally! Someone this season making a song completely his/her own! Scotty stuck to his guns and did a completely country version of this song. Props to him for that. Having said that, I have no desire to listen to a countrified version of "For Once In My Life" ever again.
Score: 6.5

Pia Toscano - "All In Love Is Fair" by Stevie Wonder
Well, hello Katharine McPhee v2.0, minus the screech. Pia is killing me with her song choices. She picked the snooziest Motown song she could have possibly picked, and although she KILLED it vocally, I was bored. I'm so glad Jennifer and Randy told her to liven it up. If she doesn't do it next week after getting that advice, she won't last much longer.
Score: 6.75 (docked for song choice)

Paul McDonald - "Tracks Of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Paul broke out the guitar for this one and put a bit of a Rod Stewart-esque spin to this song. While I find his voice to be quite grating at times, I actually kind of liked how he did the song. He still smiles way too much on songs that aren't appropriate to smile on, but he seemed to tone it down a little bit this week. Still not a fan of his "what's going on, yo?!" greeting when he comes on stage. It's just a little too casual.
Score: 6.25

Naima Adedapo - "Dancing In The Street" by Martha & the Vandellas
Naima's voice is back! I almost forgot she could sing in tune! Also back? The Boom Fiyah dance break! This time, Naima busted out the African dance. It was a bit wild and conjured up flashbacks of the dance scene in Can't Buy Me Love, but it was entertaining, that's for sure!
Score: 8.0

James Durbin - "Living In The City" by Stevie Wonder
I thought he was pitchy in this song. Give me Taylor Hicks' version any day. And I'm not even a Taylor fan.
Score: 6.75

This week's bottom 3 is going to be verrrry interesting. Someone new is going to hit the bottom, and I honestly don't know who it's going to be. Probably Thia, but possibly Stefano too. I can't see Haley surviving another Bottom 3 trip.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

AI10 Top 12 Results: Minority Report

Someone alert Elton John - America kicked off another minority from American Idol! A week after Ashthon Jones got sent home, Karen Rodriguez got the boot, despite her bilingual attempts to be saved by the judges. She was doomed from the get-go with her song choice. And "Love Will Lead You Back" has claimed its third victim in as many attempts!

After being named as the lowest vote-getter, Karen sang a wobbly "Hero" while the judges allegedly debated on whether or not to save her. Randy Jackson claimed it was not unanimous to not use the save, but I find it hard to believe they would waste the save on someone as disposable as Karen this early in the game.

Joining Karen in the bottom 3 were two other women of color - Naima Adedapo (black) and Haley Reinhart (red, as in lipstick, which was all over her face on Wednesday). The other two minorities, Thia Megia and Jacob Lusk, were safe, although Thia had to sweat it out with Karen to see who would get the last bottom 3 spot (duh).

This is the second week in a row where the bottom 3 and bootee were called by pretty much everyone in the Idol blogosphere (WHAAAAT - America getting it right two straight weeks? This is a little surprising. But there's plenty of time for the voters to muck it up!). Naima and Haley should probably set up camp on those stools until they are eliminated in the next two weeks.

Also on the show, season 9 winner Lee DeWyze sang his new single, "Beautiful Like You". It wasn't bad, but if this is single, he really should get some advice from Allison Iraheta pretty soon on what to do when your label saddles you with a second single that probably isn't going to get you any radio airplay and then gives you a token spot on Idol to sing it before anyone has ever heard it on the radio.

The Black Eyed Peas (or at least I think it was the Black Eyed Peas - WTF happened to Fergie? Bad face lift?) sang their new song, "Just Can't Get Enough". Sadly, not a cover of the Depeche Mode song. But at least it was 100 times better than their last shitty single, "Time Of My Life".

There was a Ford commercial that featured the Idols doing some movie scenes. One scene had James Durbin as a killer. He clearly didn't have to look far for tips on how to look like an axe murderer (hi, Casey!).

OH! And the group number! A Glee-esque mashup of "Born To Be Wild" and "Born This Way" that left no doubt that the group was singing live.

Next week is "Classic Motown" week. Haley should probably keep her bags unpacked after two straight weeks of being in the bottom and after that dismissive thanks-for-playing speech Jimmy Iovine gave her. There will definitely be a new face joining her in the bottom 3. It will be interesting to see who that ends up being (coughThiacough).

AI10 Top 12: Crappy Songs From The Year You Were Born

One of Idol's favorite theme nights is "Songs From The Year You Were Born". This theme week has been very hit or miss in past years (we got David Cook's "Billie Jean" and Adam Lambert's "Mad World" from it, but we also got some head-scratching song choices from Kris Allen ("All She Wants To Do Is Dance"), David Archuleta ("You're The Voice"), Bo Bice ("Free Bird") and Nadia Turner (some totally random Crystal Gayle song). This year's crew definitely falls into the miss category, with some very uninspired song choices from the majority.

Naima Adedapo - What's Love Got to Do With It by Tina Turner (1984)
Naima was SO pitchy throughout this performance, and she can't pin it on her dancing. In a pleasantly surprising move, Jennifer Lopez finally decided to judge and called her out on it.
Score: 4.75

Paul McDonald - I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues by Elton John (1984)
Watching the recap at the end of the show, I wasn't as put off by it as I was when I watched initially. But it really bugs me that Paul sings every song like he's at Mardi Gras, despite the lyrical content. With his cheshire cat grin and drunken staggering on stage, I wonder where these blues are that he is singing about.
Score: 4.25

Thia Megia - Colors Of The Wind by Vanessa Williams (1995)
Thia sang a ballad from Disney's Pocahontas while wearing a Pocahontas-colored dress. Oh lord. And she either butchered or totally mumbled the lyrics twice. She has a very nice voice, but she's boring me with it with the songs she chooses to sing, and Randy Jackson totally called her out on her weekly ballad choices.
Score: 6.25

James Durbin - I'll Be There For You by Bon Jovi (1989)
I take back anything I said last week about how melodic James is after this week's performance. The phrasing was weird, the singing was mediocre and unmelodic, the posing was back. MEH.
Score: 6.0

Haley Reinhart - I'm Your Baby Tonight by Whitney Houston (1990)
Randy's right - Haley has no idea what kind of singer she is. The one thing she has is a distinctive voice, but it's not a good distinctive, as far as I'm concerned. Unless growly cartoony is the new good.
Score: 4.75

Stefano Langone - If You Don’t Know Me By Now by Simply Red (1989)
The performance of the night, but on a night like this, that doesn't say much. And he should have quit while he was ahead on that last note.
Score: 7.5

Pia Toscano - Where Do Broken Hearts Go by Whitney Houston (1988)
I blame Rodney Jerkins for this mess. Pia sounded great, but Rodney threw in a half-assed dance beat into the song, which might have been kind of cool if they had gone all out on it. But it was such a sleepy beat that it made Pia sound like she was on a cruise ship. So this didn't really help her growing reputation of only singing boring ballads.
Score: 6.5

Scotty McCreery - Can I Trust You With My Heart by Travis Tritt (1993)
I may as well just keep this line saved to my clipboard so I can copy and paste it next week: Scotty is very good at what he does. I'm not a big fan of this type of country, but he's definitely doing something right. When he starts picking more familiar songs in his wheelhouse, he'll be unstoppable. He might already BE unstoppable.
Score: 7.0

Karen Rodriguez - Love Will Lead You Back by Taylor Dayne (1989)
Karen's huge updo made me think that she originally chose the B-52's Love Shack and then forgot to tell the hair department that she switched to Taylor Dayne. She probably should've actually chosen Love Shack instead, because this snoozy song is an Idol killer. Just ask Mikalah Gordon and Carmen Rasmusen, who were both eliminated the week they sang it. Adios, Karen!
Score: 5.0

Casey Abrams: - Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana (1991)
If you're going to do Nirvana on Idol, you best do Nirvana in a way that isn't supposed to sound like Nirvana. Strip it down, put a different arrangement to it. Anything but try to sing it straight up. You're never going to be Kurt Cobain, so don't even try. You'd think that Casey would have put some jazz spin to it, but it was just a garage band performance. And since I've given Thia, Pia and Karen crap for singing nothing but ballads, I'm going to give Casey crap for growling angrily through all of his songs on the big stage while looking like he's going to eat someone alive.
Score: 4.75

Lauren Alaina - I'm The Only One by Melissa Etheridge (1994)
I knew they would all play up the "Lauren is back" meme. Good lord, it's not like she was so awful last week or got such awful criticism! She's been pretty consistent all year - but not on a Kelly Clarkson level. As several people have said, she's more like Kimberly Caldwell than Kelly Clarkson. I thought this was one of the better performances of the night, and hey, kudos to her for going uptempo. None of the other girls can seem to. But she really should stop talking. Especially to "Peaches".
Score: 7.0

Jacob Lusk - Alone by Heart (1987)
Jacob goes out of his comfort zone ... only to stay in his comfort zone of oversinging a song and beating it into a bloody pulp. NO.
Score: 5.0

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Video Of The Day: Regulate (R.I.P. Nate Dogg)

In honor of Nate Dogg, who passed away last night at the age of 41, here's one of the greatest rap tunes of all-time that he did with Warren G - Grammy-nominated "Regulate":



R.I.P., Nate Dogg.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Idol Song Choices Lack The Boom-Fiyah!

The American Idol Top 13 got free reign basically to sing whatever they wanted with a theme of "Songs From Your Favorite Artists" ... and a good chunk proceeded to sing some of the most boring, trite songs that made me wonder if we were stuck in an Idol time-warp from Seasons 1-4.

We got saddled with "I Believe I Can Fly", "All By Myself", "Smile", "I Could Fall In Love" and "When You Tell Me That You Love Me". REALLY, contestants?! You've got the ability to work with some top-notch current producers and you decide to sing songs like those? Sigh. But then again, these producers were injecting some crazy things to these songs, most ridiculously a dance beat to "Lately". Oh lawd.

Lauren Alaina - "Any Man Of Mine" by Shania Twain
+1 for not picking a boring ballad. But -1 for picking a cheesy out-with-the-girls-at-a-karaoke-bar song. This is not a song that makes people pick up the phone and vote for you. Also contributing to the not wanting to pick up the phone and vote for you mentality? Her attitude. Wow. That was one hell of a bitch face she gave to STEVEN TYLER of all people. He's been putting the hard sell on her all season and barely said anything bad about her tonight. He just didn't fawn all over her like he normally does. It was so not worthy of the death stares and the pouty lip. What a brat! Oh, and the "I just didn't want to do a ballad 'cause that's what everyone does" comment? ISWYDT, Lauren. Tsk.
Score: 6.5

Casey Abrams - "With A Little Help From My Friends" by The Beatles (covered by Joe Cocker)
Casey's secret serial killer image didn't improve with the last half of this performance. The first half was fine, but then he started getting angry at his friends and lost me. Yes, he's doing it Cocker style, but why is it so angry and guttural?
Score: 6.75

Ashthon Jones - "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" by Diana Ross
The Season 4 cast recorded this song as a charity single, and then Vonzell Solomon (the inventor of the Key of V) sang it a few weeks later on Billboard night. Ashthon inexplicably resurrected this song and sang it in the key of V, X, Y AND Z. Woof. She was all over the place on this!
Score: 4.0

Paul McDonald - "Come Pick Me Up" by Ryan Adams
Jennifer Lopez has no idea who Ryan Adams is, and sadly, she probably stands in the same company as more than half of America. Which makes this song selection potentially deadly for Paul. Not only because it's unfamiliar but also because it's a bit understated. Paul tried to liven it up with his, uh, dancing, but his dancing is so peculiar that I'm not certain it helped his cause. He looked like he was doing the Russian Trepak at one point. It's becoming a caricature. And I haven't even delved into the voice. The wispy rasp is unique, certainly, but I don't think I could handle hearing more than 1 minute of that in a song, let alone 4. I listened to Ryan Adams' version to hear what the original sounds like - wow. So much more pleasant to listen to.
Score: 4.5

Pia Toscano - "All By Myself" by Eric Carmen (covered by Celine Dion)
Yes, she picked a Celine song. Yes, she picked another ballad. Yes, she just stood there and sang and gestured. And if she doesn't branch out soon, I may have to pick a new horse. But I can't deny that she didn't sing this song very well. She has a great voice. She just needs to show a little bit more personality and liveliness.
Score: 7.75

James Durbin - "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney
It says something about his performance skills when this guy, who I have gotten my hate on for throughout the season, manages to worm his way into my favorites on show night. James has been delivering like whoah, and he toned down the screaming tonight. J.Lo hit the nail on the head with him - he's very melodic. This was really good.
Score: 8.25

Haley Reinhart - "Blue" by LeAnn Rimes
The yodeling surprisingly didn't bother me as much. I think I was too distracted by her hula dancing. What in the world?! Also, Randy Jackson touched on this briefly - she went from singing Alicia Keys to singing this. I have no idea what kind of music she wants to sing. Is she a country singer? Is she an R&B singer? No clue!
Score: 5.5

Jacob Lusk - "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly
Jacob's Idol is a pedophile! Really crappy and trite song choice here, but Jacob was helped out by a choir (so was Casey), which almost always makes everything sound better than it really is. Only thing missing was Blake Griffin dunking over a Ford Focus. It's week one! Pace yourself, Idol, or you're going to end up having to have the Idols sing with dead people by finale night. Not that Jacob is going to get to the finale after an out of tune performance like that. Then again, if the judges keep ignoring his shortcomings like that, he could still get a spot in the finale.
Score: 5.0

Thia Megia - "Smile" by Charlie Chapman Chaplin (covered by Michael Jackson)
I'm going to try to believe that Thia's favorite artist really is Michael Jackson (who had maybe one hit during Thia's lifespan) and that she didn't pick Michael Jackson because Randy said she reminded him of MJ. Ahem. Anyway, Thia-bot picked another old, super-slow song. Yawn. Then she (or these crazy producers) decided to add a little jazzy beat in the middle that made zero sense and made me long for the boring slow stuff again. Oh dear.
Score: 4.5

Stefano Langone - "Lately" by Stevie Wonder
Stef. A. No. Sings. Like. This. Ver. Y. Sta. Cca. To. And. Short. And putting that stupid dance beat into it made the staccato that much more pronounced. UGH. Do. Not. Want. That song doesn't need a dance beat to modernize it. Just ask Jodeci. And that was almost 20 years ago.
Score: 5.25

Karen Rodriguez - "I Could Fall In Love" by Selena
Oh, Karen. Could you be any more predictable? Or boring? The Selena-inspired pantsuit was the moldy icing on the cake. She has a pleasant voice, but that's just it - it's just pleasant. There's no spark.
Score: 5.0

Scotty McCreery - "The River" by Garth Brooks
All you had to do was survey the crowd during his performance to know that this kid is going far in this competition. The noise level from the audience hooting and hollering started gradually creeping up as he sang, and then you could see people start to really get into the performance, standing up in the back third of the song. I'm not a fan of Scotty's type of country music, but he's clearly really good at what he does.
Score: 8.0

Naima Adedapo - "Umbrella"
Well she's got the Rihanna pop star thing down pat with the inability to sing live while dancing. Maybe after this experience she will "overstand" that (snort) and put in more instrumental breaks or something if she wants to dance. From a vocal standpoint, it was rough. From a performance standpoint, she was one of the few on the night who actually put on a show, so major props to her for that. Also? BOOM! FIYAH! Heh.
Score: 7.25

Bottom 3: Ashthon, Karen and Paul
Going home: Ashthon

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Meet The American Idol 10 Top 13

The American Idol Season 10 finalists could potentially be one of the strongest groups from top to bottom, with America and the judges mostly getting it right in the semifinals. One thing this season is lacking, which is a good thing, is a Sanjaya/Chicken Little type of contestant who you just cannot believe is in the competition week after week. But the season is still young, and there is a possible Jasmine Trias in the making in the mix, so we'll see.

Here's a look at the finalists in order of how I think they'll finish:

Scotty McCreery
Idol introduction: "Baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low ..." (Milwaukee auditions)
Why he could win: He's ready to make an authentic country record right now.
Why he won't win: If he gets forced out of his comfort zone and bombs in consecutive weeks he could go, but it sounds like Idol is trying to let the contestants stay in their genres.
Prediction: Your American Idol

Paul McDonald
Idol introduction: A few seconds of his "Maggie May" during the Nashville auditions was enough to get a decent fanbase.
Why he could win: Good-looking singer-songwriter. Duh.
Why he won't win: TPTB will find a way to throw him under the bus to prevent another male singer-songwriter type from winning. But more importantly, if he's in the finals with Scotty with Lauren coming in third, all of Lauren's votes are going to go to Scotty.
Prediction: Top 2

Lauren Alaina
Idol introduction: Before her audition even aired, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe was raving about her giving Kelly Clarkson "a run for her money". And when her audition aired (she sang "Like We Never Loved At All" and then after getting her golden ticket sang "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" for her parents and asked Steven Tyler to join in), they showed Steven Tyler walking outside afterwards saying "I think we found the one."
Why she could win: She has pipes, sings country, and is a non-threatening young female that the younger audience would gravitate to. And the judges, especially Steven Tyler, LOVE her.
Why she won't win: So many voters grow tired of overpimping and manipulation. Plus, she's really annoying.
Prediction: Top 3

Casey Abrams
Idol introduction: He was shown in the Austin auditions playing the melodica. I was certain it was going to be a joke audition, but then he sang/scatted Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor" and blew the judges away in the same way Taylor Hicks did back in Season 5.
Why he could win: He may be one of the best musicians this show has seen. His "Georgia On My Mind" audition with the upright bass in Hollywood was a true highlight.
Why he won't win: He doesn't sing as well as he plays, and he can't sing jazzy songs from 50 years ago every week on this show.
Prediction: Top 4

Pia Toscano
Idol introduction: I don't recall seeing her until the group round in Hollywood, when she and her group kicked off the round with a strong performance of "Grenade".
Why she could win: She has the strongest voice of the women, and she can power ballad her way pretty far.
Why she won't win: The designated pretty girl NEVER wins this show. Also, you can only power ballad so many times before it gets boring. And she's already lacking a bit in the personality department. I feel like i know absolutely nothing about her.
Prediction: Top 5

James Durbin
Idol introduction: Not only was he teased throughout the entire San Francisco auditions as having a voice and story you can't believe, but he basically threw the entire kitchen sink at us with his backstory. He has Tourette's, he has Asperger's, he was bullied, he barely knew his dad, his dad died, he has a kid, he's broke, he has no job, they can't afford diapers. He's living in a van, down by the river!
Why he could win: He is the only rock singer in the competition, and while everyone else is boring us with ballads, he's bringing some excitement.
Why he won't win: He screams too much, has said he wants to sing more metal, and there's no way the Glamberts will allow this guy to win when Adam didn't.
Prediction: Top 6

Jacob Lusk
Idol introduction: He was first shown in Hollywood group rounds singing "Get Ready" with Naima Adedapo, amongst others. After the performance, Ryan Seacrest voice-over'd "And a new star emerges in Jacob Lusk."
Why he could win: He has crazy range and can sing really low and really high.
Why he won't win: He oversings like whoah, and he has an old-fashioned style of singing.
Prediction: Top 7 (after which he will claim he's the Jennifer Hudson of his season)

Thia Megia
Idol introduction: She auditioned in Milwaukee and sang "Chasing Pavements".
Why she could win: She's got the Filipino voting block that helped Jasmine Trias (it wasn't just Hawaii), and she's known from when she was on America's Got Talent.
Why she won't win: She's a robot! And she sings the same types of slow songs all the time and has little to no personality.
Prediction: Top 8

Naima Adedapo
Idol introduction: She was shown in the Milwaukee auditions cleaning toilets at Summerfest and then singing "For All We Know" by Donny Hathaway in front of the judges.
Why she could win: Her tone is fantastic, she has a unique style of singing (and dressing lol).
Why she won't win: Her unique-ness isn't mainstream enough to win.
Prediction: Top 9

Stefano Langone
Idol introduction: In the Sob Francisco auditions, Idol practically did a full-on re-inactment of his car accident and rehab (they showed his scars!) before they showed him singing "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".
Why he could win: Teen girls.
Why he won't win: He's the weak link amongst the guys and he's got an uphill climb since he didn't win the public vote to get into the Top 13.
Prediction: Top 10

Haley Reinhart
Idol introduction: She was shown in the Milwaukee audition singing/shouting "Oh Darling".
Why she could win: No. But she managed to get voted into the Top 13, so she must have some fans.
Why she won't win: The only thing more annoying than her growling is her baby voice singing.
Prediction: JUST misses tour.

Karen Rodriguez
Idol introduction: MySpace's Karen Rodriguez was shown singing "You Give Good Love" in the LA Auditions and then telling Jennifer Lopez that she sang to her when JLo was on TRL back in the day.
Why she could win: She can't win. But she could stay for a little bit with the Latino vote.
Why she won't win: Karen keeps picking boring ballads to sing.
Prediction: Eliminated the first two weeks

Ashthon Jones
Idol introduction: She was shown for the first time in the group round in Hollywood, handling Ashley Sullivan and her leaving and then coming back craziness quite well. I thought she was a standout in that group during their "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops)" performance.
Why she could win: LOL she's not winning, but her divatastic looks and style could possibly get her by a week or two.
Why she won't win: Most of the other girls are better singers, and she wins the award for most annoying Tweeter amongst the Top 13.
Prediction: Eliminated in the first week

Thursday, March 03, 2011

AI10 Top 12 Girls - Ladies Surge Ahead

Could Season 10 be a woman's year? After the first week of ~live shows, I'd say that this group could be the strongest group of girls since Season 6, which, not coincidentally, was the last year a woman won the show. I thought the girls had a much stronger opening night overall than the guys did, and perhaps the pre-show lip service about a girl winning this year might actually come true.

Not only did the girls perform better in a lot of cases, but they also exuded much more star quality than the guys did. And when the pretty girl (Pia Toscano) turns out to actually be the best singer and not ... Haley Scarnato, you know the girls are in for a good year.

Ta-Tynisa Wilson - "Only Girl In The World" by Rihanna
Playing the rolse of Jordan Dorsey tonight is Ta-Tynisa Wilson. Picking a heavily auto-tuned song like this was ridiculous because it's just not really sing-able. And oof, was she pitchy. Almost equally ridiculous was her outfit. She tried to out-Julie Zorrilla with that dress, and her petticoat and shoes made her look like she was going to National Bandstand to steal Danny Zuko away from Sandy mid-Hand Jive.
Score: 4.0

Naima Adedapo - "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess
If you're going to pick one of the most iconic songs in Idol history, you better put your own spin to it. So I do give Naima credit for doing "Summertime" in a completely different manner than Fantasia did. Unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of that manner. If Simon Cowell were still on the show, you know his standby "that was very cabaret" comment would have rolled off his tongue. The dancing/arm waving at the top of the song made me laugh. Vocally, though, she sounded good, and she's absolutely stunning. Her cheekbones!
Score: 7.0

Kendra Chantelle - "Impossible" by Christina Aguilera
I like her voice. It's very interesting and different and sultry. I'm not sure the song choice is quite so memorable, but I thought she did a good job.
Score: 7.5

Rachel Zevita - "Criminal" by Fiona Apple
If Naima's performance was cabaret, Rachel's was straight out of Upright Cabaret. I mean, the girl slinked over to the mic with a cape wrapped around her, and right on the beat, she dropped the cape and put her arms over her head to sing the line "I've been a bad, bad girl." This jazzy arrangement was so bizarre (not to mention tuneless at times).
Score: 4.0

Karen Rodriguez - "Hero" by Mariah Carey
Karen sounded pleasant enough, and I actually kind of liked that she did it in two languages. However, the song choice, the hair, the dress, her arm movements and the cheesy Planetarium background were very pageanty. And her song choices so far throughout this competition make me not want to vote for her because I don't want to keep hearing the likes of "You Give Good Love" and "Hero" week after week.
Score: 6.5

Lauren Turner - "Seven Day Fool" by Etta James
I think Lauren has received the least amount of air-time of all the finalists. All I really remember her from is being in Jordan Dorsey's group before he bailed on them. After this, I remember her for her kick-ass voice. She really nailed that song vocally. Her stomping around the stage in her Frankenstein boots was a wee bit distracting, but I like the sound of her voice.
Score: 8.0

Ashthon Jones - "Love Over Me" by Monica
Let me invoke another Cowell-ism. "You naughty little minx!" This girl is very aware of the cameras. She's VERY self-confident. She called Steven Tyler "baby" and Jennifer Lopez "girl" when she thanked them. She greeted Ryan Seacrest by saying "Hey! You look GOOD!" What in the world?! LOL. As far as her vocals go, she has pipes. I think, like Randy said, this wasn't the song to make a statement with, but she sang well.
Score: 7.0

Julie Zorrilla - "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson
This whole thing was like going to a Sweet 16 birthday party, where the birthday girl was dressed up in her pretty pink Disney princess dress and handed the mic to start off some karaoke. Julie's version of Disney karaoke was bad. She garbled lyrics in the bridge, made ridiculous arm gestures and then started squatting and doing something sort of reminiscent of Fantasia's bobo. What a mess!
Score: 4.5

Haley Reinhart - "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys
Between Haley's growling and her violating the camera in a way that makes Constantine Maroulis seem almost tame, I really would just rather see her and Casey Abrams go at it in a cage fight. Winner gets to eat the other. If she would just cut it out with the over-excessive growling and the Betty Boop quality her voice took on in the early verses, I might actually like her normal voice. But I don't know because she doesn't let it out much.
Score: 6.0

Thia Megia - "Out Here On My Own" by Irene Cara
Thia sang most of the first verse a cappella. IMPRESSIVE. That is so hard and risky, but her pitch is impeccable, and she can really sing. Like Karen, though, I wonder about her song choices and whether or not she can sing something other than ballads.
Score: 8.0

Lauren Alaina - "Turn On The Radio" by Reba McEntire
The judges really need to take it down a notch with Lauren before half the viewing audience starts to resent her (a chunk of whom already do!). J.Lo kept calling her "my little Lauren". Randy called her a combination of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (oh, you know - only the two most successful winners ever on this show). Steven told her he loves her and that she's "the best". Yes, Lauren (who was sporting a very DJ Tanner look tonight) was good, and her vocals were indeed effortless, but she has not hit Kelly or Carrie levels yet. On a Kelly Clarkson scale from "It's Raining Men" to "Stuff Like That There", this was around a "Don't Play That Song" level.
Score: 8.0

Pia Toscano - "I'll Stand By You" by The Pretenders
WOW. That was fantastic! She got all three judges up on their feet before she even finished singing. This was almost a Latoya London type of semifinal sneak attack (except that Pia had at least been shown singing a little bit in Hollywood and Vegas). She definitely has the pipes - now she needs to get some of her personality out there since no one knows anything about her outside of the fact that she was a makeup artist. That story isn't going to buy votes. Can she borrow one of James Durbin's many issues?
Score: 9.0

Judges
OMG, Steven and Jennifer ... GROW A PAIR! When they praised Ta-Tynisa and said her singing was "beautiful" and that she did a "really good job", I knew this was going to be one of those nights again. Randy said that Ta-Tynisa paled in comparison to Rihanna, and J.Lo disagreed (LOL I hope Rihanna starts a Twitter war with J.Lo now like she did with Ciara. RiRi - it's @JLo if you want to go ahead and start). Once again tonight, Randy Jackson was the voice of reason. This is so disconcerting.
Score: 5.0

I expect Pia, Lauren A. and Thia to be locks. The other two will likely come from Naima, Lauren T. and Kendra.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

AI10 Top 12 Guys - Better Heard Than Seen

It's bad enough that the American Idol judges/producers have given us a Top 24 with very little eye candy amongst the guys. But to give us a bunch of guys who make it difficult for me to watch when they sing? NOT COOL.

This has nothing to do with physical attractiveness but everything to do with how they presented themselves on stage. Let's take Stefano Langone for a second. He's supposed to be the cute one, I suppose, this year? Well, maybe when he doesn't sing. Because he's an ugly singer. All squinty eyes and weird faces. James Durbin - stop with the rawk poses. Paul McDonald, you're not exempt either, with your staggering around the stage like a drunk wedding singer. Then there's Casey Abrams, who looked so angry while he was singing/growling, like he was going to eat the head of the microphone and then throw the rest of it at the audience. And I'll spare you this week from another diatribe about Clint Jun Gamboa's glasses. If we're looking for someone who is the total package, I'm not really seeing it yet from these guys.

Clint Jun Gamboa - "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
The one saving grace for me with this guy is his voice, but he was kind of a screeching mess for me. Also, that song choice was so uninspired. Meh.
Score: 6.0

Jovany Barreto - "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain
Talk about uninspired song choices! This song was openly mocked on Idol years ago as being overdone by people. Jovany actually sang it well enough from a vocal standpoint, but it's such a trite song that it is just a big cheesefest, especially coming from Mr. Meathead who "thought he had Randy sewed up" as a fellow Baton Rouge guy (lol DUDE. Take that ego back to Louisiana and the ship-yahd, mmkay?)
Score: 5.5

Jordan Dorsey - "OMG" by Usher
LOLOLOLOLOL I haven't had a laugh like this on the show since Chicken Little sang "Part Time Lover" in Season 5. Between Jordan trying to sing a song that is so auto-tuned that there isn't that much of a melody in it, the horrific-ness of the backup singers, his lulzy end pose, and Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson just sitting there all "Ohhhh-kay den" at the end while Jennifer Lopez politely applauded, I was howling with laughter. Thanks, Jordan! Good times, good times!
Score: 3.0

Tim Halperin - "Streetcorner Symphony" by Rob Thomas
Sigh. I do see Tim as a Rob Thomas kind of singer, but this song was SOOOOO not the right song for him. This whole performance was kind of cheesy and bar band-ish. And he did a pointy-pose at the end! Oh lawd. I was about ready to jump on the Tim bandwagon after his Beatles duet with Julie Zorrilla, but good heavens, that was like three steps backwards with this song.
Score: 5.0

Brett Loewenstern - "Light My Fire" by The Doors
While I think Brett is a sweet kid (lol at him running back to Seacrest, hugging him and saying "I love you!"), I am having such a hard time seeing him outside of this competition out in the real world. It's all so cabaret. I know he gets compared a lot to the Simply Red guy with those locks, but after watching this performance, I think he's more like a redhead Taylor Swift. The prancing! The coquettish looks over the shoulder! The hairography! All that's missing are some cowboy boots and that awkward stance. Maybe next week.
Score: 6.0

James Durbin - "You Got Another Thing Coming" by Judas Priest
Well I don't think I ever thought I'd see a Judas Priest song done on Idol. This sounded like a recipe for disaster for me personally, since I don't like metal and I don't like Durbin. But ... I ... kind of liked it. GASP! Durbin's screeching fit more with this song. But again, it was one of those performances that was better heard than seen. The rock horns? The windmill arms? The rawk jump? LOL. Poseur.
Score: 7.25

Robbie Rosen - "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan
Oh dear. I thought this kid had some promise, but anyone who can re-arrange this song to make it even MORE boring even with a faster tempo needs to be stopped. The high notes on the last line were all kinds of wrong too.
Score: 5.25

Scotty McCreery - "Letters From Home" by John Michael Montgomery
I'm not a big fan of Scotty's type of country music, but he really does his thing well. Baby Lock Them Doors is still a bit one-trick-pony to me, but he's really good at his one trick. I thought he gave one the best performances of the night. It's weird to look at him sing because he sounds like a 40 year-old man trapped in Alfred E. Neuman's body with Clay Aiken's singing mannerisms.
Score: 7.25

Stefano Langone - "Just The Way You Are" by Bruno Mars
I'm just not a fan of his singing style. It's SO staccato at times. And J.Lo, don't think we didn't all see you wince when Stefano tried to hit that super-high note!
Score: 5.75

Paul McDonald - "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart
I talked earlier about his staggering around the stage. And I kept going back to Simon Cowell's critique to Taylor Hicks where he likened him to a drunk uncle at a wedding. And then Randy went on about how Paul is quirky and different from anyone they've ever had on the show. But he's like Taylor except younger, hipper, and more attractive. And without the SOUL PATROL! WOOOO! type of self-promotion. He's totes gonna win.
Score: 7.0

Jacob Lusk - "A House Is Not A Home" by Luther Vandross
Yes, Jacob can sing. And he has incredible range. But I felt absolutely NOTHING with this song. It's like he was singing to show off. Tamyra Gray sang this song on the first season of Idol, and you could feel every ounce of emotion coming through in her singing. I didn't get any sense of heartache from Jacob. All I got was "LOOK AT ME!" with the way the was looking at the camera and the judges.
Score: 6.75

Casey Abrams -"I Put A Spell On You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
That was a very ominous performance of that song. It was like restraining order levels of creepy. There was just a little too much shouting and growling. And now I'm slightly afraid of this kid.
Score: 6.75

The Judges
I think Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were having Ellen syndrome wherein they seemed like they didn't want to give bad critiques. I mean, it's nice that they're being positive, but calling crappy performances "beautiful" when it sounded like ass does nobody any favors. Randy Jackson was the voice of reason tonight. RANDY JACKSON! WTAF?!
Score: 5.0 (Randy saved their asses here. smh)

I guess 5 are making it through the vote, with maybe 1 other being chosen as a Wild Card. I think James, Jacob, Casey, Paul and Scotty are your five, with either Robbie, Brett or Clint as the Wild Card.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Video Of The Day: Sara Bareilles Uncharted

VH1.com premiered Sara Bareilles' new video - "Uncharted". It the cutest video with all kinds of cameos from some of Sara's musician friends, lip-synching the song.

This is what Sara said on Facebook about the video:

Our very own Javier Dunn (singer-songwriter, my guitar player, and general awesome dude) came up with a concept to bring that sensation to life. This video is about my journey as an artist who looks up to the people around them. This is about being a fan of people who take chances, who are fearless, who have integrity, and go off into the world saying yes to what's around them. It's filled with some of the people in my life who do that everyday. They have impacted my world and are not only incredible artists, but great friends as well. They all worked this giant favor into their very busy lives and helped me out more than I can say.

In the video are: Ben Folds; Cary Brothers; Greg Laswell; Adam Gardner and Ryan Miller of Guster; Laura Jansen; Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael and James Valentine of Maroon 5; P.J. Morton; Pharrell Williams; Tegan & Sara; Vanessa Carlton; Ryan Tedder; internet lipdub superstar Keenan Cahill; Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland; Josh Groban (who is hilariously hammy); and Ingrid Michaelson.