Thursday, June 30, 2011

SYTYCD8 Top 16: Two Strikes And You're Out

With so many strong dancers this season on So You Think You Can Dance, the judges are finding it hard to get rid of anyone for any good, consistent reasons. So this week they decided to get rid of two dancers mostly because of the amount of times they've been in the bottom 3. Miranda and Robert probably danced well enough to stay out of the bottom, but America's vote put them back in there for the second time in three weeks, along with first-time bottom 3 performers Ashley and Chris and Caitlynn and Mitchell.

Based solely on their solos, I definitely would have kept Miranda. I actually thought she had the best solo of the whole group. Once again, I thought Robert had the worst male solo, so I agreed with that decision. I'm starting to wonder if Miranda was sacrificed in order to keep the pairings intact. Nigel told reporters after the show that he fought for Miranda to stay but was overruled. Ashley likely would have been the one to go if he had his way, and as much as I like her and think she's a beautiful dancer, I wouldn't have had a problem with her going since she really hasn't had any wow performances yet. Plus, her solo was lacking in content, big-time. Robert's solos have been lacking as well, although this one was better than his last, but it was easily the least impressive of the three. Mitchell's strength and grace was stunning (and he was amazing on the samba), and Chris did some cool tricks. I was a bit disappointed with Caitlynn's solo - she fell out of a turn and wasn't very clean.

I don't always enjoy the guest dance performances, but this week was an exception. The first group, AXIS Dance Company, featured a man in a wheelchair and a woman. The dance was inspiring and creative. And theatrical dancers Eric Luna & Georgia Ambarian were STUNNING with their gravity-defying tricks and lifts.

A couple of quick thoughts on the performances from Wednesday:

TPTB are still trying so hard to tell us how much better the girls are over the guys. They're not even being subtle about it. Tyce Diorio created a group dance implicitly to capitalize on their strengths and "domination" over the guys.

They are also trying to so hard to make Sasha and Ryan happen. I don't think it's any coincidence that they consistently get contemporary and jazz, respectively, nearly every week, with a lyrical hip-hop thrown in to ~challenge them. Please. Give them some ballroom or even Broadway already! And they still show Ryan front and center in the group dances all the time.

Best dance of the week was Melanie and Marko's Nappy Tabs lyrical hip-hop. Marko sold this performance the second he lifted up his head and emoted so perfectly. He and Melanie have to rank right up there with the best pairing this show has ever had. They are both exquisite dancers. The show needs to costume that poor girl better, though. Holy ugly outfit! All the talk after was about all the kissing going on (between Marko and Melanie during the dance and between Nigel and Mary and Kristen Chenowith and Lil C ... and even Nigel and Lil C during critiques), but I don't think even that could overshadow how great that performance was.

Before critiquing Ashley and Chris, Nigel went on about how he tells the judges not to talk about the wrong song choice on American Idol and then proceeds to tell them that the music sucked and that the costuming and makeup was bad when he knows they have no control over this!

If I watched Ryan dance without looking at her inappropriately smiley or blank facial expressions, I'd probably like her.

The Voice Anti-Climatically Crowns A Winner

In a reality show rarity, the early front-runner actually won, as Javier Colon was voted the winner of The Voice. The honey-voiced crooner was picked from the very first episode as the one to beat after a stunning performance of "Time After Time", and he eked out a win by 2% over Dia Frampton, who has consistently been winning the vote on iTunes.

Before announcing the results, each finalist sang a duet with a special guest artist. Vicci Martinez sang with what Carson Daly called her "one of her favorite artists", Pat Monahan from Train. Luckily for the whole world, they did not sing "Hey Soul Sister" but "Drops of Jupiter" instead. Pat was a hot mess (vocally and aesthetically ... what is that hair?!), and Vicci couldn't save that.

Javier sang "Landslide" with Stevie Nicks, and it was GORGEOUS. Stevie can't handle some of the higher notes anymore, but his harmonies were incredible!!! Adam Levine gushed like whoa afterward, calling it one of the most beautiful duets he's ever heard in his life. Maybe a bit hyperbolic, but it really was stunning. I want to buy this recording now and play it 100x in a row.

Beverly McClellan got stuck with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder (or Ryan Teeder, as Carson Daly, massive tool, called him at the top of the show), singing "Good Life". Tedder has been much-maligned by me as a bad live singer on television, and he didn't disappoint (for the record, he sounds perfectly fine in concert). Beverly didn't sound good either. I think whoever did the duet pairings clearly skimped on the third and fourth place finishers.

Blake Shelton enlisted his wife, Miranda Lambert, to sing her Grammy-winning hit "The House That Built Me" with Dia. They sounded beautiful together, despite the audience clapping along. Stop doing that on slow songs, audience.

For all the good things this show has done better than Idol, they really biffed the crowning moment. After pulling out the top two, Carson didn't really make the winning announcement suspenseful, nor did they have Javier end the show with a performance of his single. They pretty much just congratulated them and ho-hummed off the air. They need to fix that next season. And while they're at it, they should fix the host situation also. Carson's terrible!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Voice Finalists (And Coaches) Compete For Title

I find it pretty ironic that The Voice is supposed to be about finding the best voice, but in this week's final performance show, two of the four coaches heavily incorporated dancers or costumes or pyro (or all three, Mr. Cee Lo Green!) into the performances.

But we found fairly early into the season that this show was just as much about the coaches at it was about the contestants. As we saw with yet another group performance by the four coaches at the top of the show (Queen's "Under Pressure"). And later in the show with a random duet in the middle of the show by Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley ("Don't Drink The Water").

The four finalists (you know, the supposed real reason for the show), each sang an original song and a duet with their coach.

Javier Colon - "Stitch By Stitch" (Buy on iTunes)
Of the four original songs, I think I enjoyed this one the best, but it wasn't Javier's best vocal. He seemed nervous, and his throat closed up a few times.

Dia Frampton - "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty, with Blake Shelton (Buy on iTunes)
This whole performance is like opposite day for Dia. She's not in some 60's mom dress, she's in a suit. She's not rearranging a song. Everything that was unique about her on this show was stripped away. What in the world was Blake thinking?! Also, it was not the best song choice, to be honest. Dia's voice is too whispy and breathy for it to really pack the punch it needs. It was definitely more suited for Blake.

Vicci Martinez - "Afraid To Sleep" (Buy on iTunes)
Not a fan of the song. It sounds like a late 80's hair anthem B-side reject with no hook. That attempt at a glory note on the bridge was a mess, but she did sell it with all she had.

Beverly McClellan - "Beautiful", with Christina Aguilera (Buy on iTunes)
I laughed when I first heard that Christina picked her own song. But as soon as it started, I saw why. It was just as the song title says. Beautiful. Their voices blended well together, and Christina squelched her usual tendency to do runs all over the place. It was great.

Dia Frampton - "Inventing Shadows" (original song) (Buy on iTunes)
I'm torn on this song. There were parts I liked, but there were parts I was like "what IS this?". Same with her voice. Sometimes I think she sounds fantastic, other times I think she sounds bizarre (and omg it sounds worse on the iTunes version). So basically, that was like the Jekyll and Hyde of finale songs (and one without a hook). And, like Adam, I was a little distracted by the shadow dancers.

Javier Colon - "Man In The Mirror" by Michael Jackson (duet with Adam Levine) (Buy on iTunes)
I think there were a few word screw-ups here, but damn, Javier sounded fantastic. And Adam Levine ......... holy hotness in that suit.

Beverly McClellan - "Lovesick" (Buy on iTunes)
This song is schizophrenic! The chorus and hook don't mesh with each other. It's kind of like that "Just Can't Get Enough" song by Black Eyed Peas - it's like 3 different songs.

Vicci Martinez - "Love Is A Battlefield", with Cee Lo (Buy on iTunes)
This is like Mad Max meets Flash Gordon. And they have to use children to match Vicci's height. LMAO. Vocally, I wasn't all that impressed, to be honest. I felt like Vicci was cutting notes short when she could have totally wailed on this song. Working in her favor, though, is the possibility that all the flash and pop and sizzle of the baby dancers, the pyro and the costumes will distract some voters from this.

This is really going to be a tight race, I think. Dia has been winning on iTunes, but her margin of victory against Xenia last week was fairly tight, so I'm not sure that she's totally winning the public vote. Javier has been the favorite since the beginning, but that rarely ends well for contestants (amirite Susan Boyle, Jackie Evancho, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Justin Guarini?). Beverly had the most memorable performance of the night with her duet with Christina, but she may be too far out of the mainstream to win the whole thing. And I thought Vicci was just average tonight. So who is going to win? I'm going to guess Javier, but you can't really go wrong with any of them in this competition.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Video Of The Day: Lady Antebellum "Just A Kiss" Music Video

Lady Antebellum's music video for their latest single, "Just A Kiss", world-premiered today on their website and on VEVO. The video tells the story of a couple who meet and fall in love in Europe, with an interesting twist at the end. Product placements also play a big role in this video. ICU, iPad and Samsung!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Video Of The Day: Alicia Keys Sings With Bruno Mars, Rick Ross

Alicia Keys performed a medley of songs at the BET Awards Sunday night and was joined by Bruno Mars on "A Woman's Worth" and by Rick Ross on his "Maybach Music 2".

Alicia bookmarked those two songs with a new song "Typewriter" and "Fallin'".

alicia211626212126 by yardie4lifever2

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Video Of The Day: David Cook "Circadian" (Live)

David Cook opened his show at Six Flags Great Adventure Saturday with his first live performance of "Circadian", which is the first track on his upcoming album This Loud Morning (and one of my personal favorites from the album).

(Video from CookieNookie77)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Video Of The Day: Bruno Mars "The Lazy Song" (Today Show)

Bruno Mars performed on The Today Show this morning, rebooting his latest single, the breezy "The Lazy Song", with a more upbeat, almost-reggae feel:

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nigel's Saves Blow Up In His Face - AGAIN

Thanks to Nigel Lythgoe deciding not to eliminate anyone last week, four dancers were going to go home this week. And thanks to Nigel's asinine decision to do this AFTER showing the bottom three last week, fanbases were mobilized and none of the seven who were in the bottom last week were in danger this week. NONE OF THEM. Instead, the bottom 3 this week consisted of Missy/Wadi, Iveta/Nick and Ryan/Ricky.

Good job, Nigel. Way to eff up another season.

While I thought using the save so early on American Idol this year was stupid in the long run, at least the people who went home the following week were justifiable in being sent home. This situation here is similar to the Corey Clark situation on AI Season 2, when on Top 9 week they went through the process of showing the Bottom 3 (Kimberley Locke, Trenyce and Carmen Rasmusen) but then at the end of the show said no one was going home except for Corey, who was disqualified. The following week, all three were out of the bottom 2, and Rickey Smith went home instead.

Between these six dancers, I can't fault the judges for saving Ricky, who delivered big-time on his solo. Nick did the only tap solo I've ever liked on this show, but because of the predicament he was in, he got cut. I was ready to see Wadi go after watching Quest Crew dance with LMFAO. Wadi was the worst last night, and his solo skills compared to the Quest Crew guys were very mediocre.

The female elimination was less clear-cut. Iveta did as good of a solo as a ballroom dancer can do, and Nigel praised Missy while criticizing Ryan's solo. But, as I said earlier, Ryan is clearly one of the pets this season, and they saved her basically for her potential. That's bull. If you don't bring it, you need to go.

The music from tonight's show:
Group dance - "Sinnerman" by Nina Simone (Amazon | iTunes)
Rage Crew - "Party Like This" by Colton B featuring Mauli B
Wadi - "Pon de Floor" by Major Lazer featuring VYBZ Kartel (Amazon | iTunes)
Missy - "Move (Metronomy Remix)" by CSS (Amazon | iTunes)
Nick - "Follow Me Down" by 3OH!3 featuring Neon Hitch (Amazon | iTunes)
Iveta - "Samba Rock" by Gennaro
LMFAO - "Party Rock Anthem" (Amazon | iTunes)
Ricky - "Riot Rhythm" by Sleigh Bells (Amazon | iTunes)
Ryan - "Moving Mountains" by Usher (Amazon | iTunes)

The Voice Finalists Chosen In Least Suspenseful Result Show Ever

I probably should have saved myself some time and written this recap last night with the predictability of the voting on The Voice. The four people who got sent through to the finals - Vicci Martinez, Javier Colon, Dia Frampton and Beverly McClellan - were the best in their group, and they are also the ones kicking the most booty on iTunes.

The only suspense, really, was how big of a margin the cumulative coach/audience vote would be. There were two landslides and two races that were fairly tight. The landslides were for Vicci, who lost Cee Lo's vote, 49-51, but got 75% of the audience's vote, and Javier, who was the only one with a coach who tried to make his vote count (and who didn't cop out). Adam Levine gave Javier 65% of his vote in order to ensure that he made the final, but Adam could have given Casey Weston 65% of the vote and Javier still would have advanced, as he earned 73% of the public vote.

The other two results were a bit closer. Blake Shelton had the hardest choice amongst his team, and he was clearly torn between them, so he left it up to America, who voted in Dia's favor, 56-44%. Like Blake, Christina Aguilera went 50-50 on her vote, and Beverly advanced by taking 57% of the audience vote.

There was one surprise - I wasn't expecting an group sing at the top of the show! Actually, I was more expecting the coaches to perform again in some capacity since they seem to do this on every show (and LOL Cee Lo did perform after his finalist was named, singing "Bright Lights, Bigger City"). The semifinalists sang George Michael's "Freedom" with a sprinkling of "Faith". And while they managed to accomplish what many Idol group songs have not in the past (stay in tune!), it was sorely lacking some choreography and pointy poses. For me, it's really just boring without it, sorry to say. The staging of this was so awkward - when the group of Javier, Frenchie, Xenia and Vicci walked out, it was so nonchalant and/or stiff-legged (Xenia). The other group was more energetic, but you also need to control yourself and not spray the stage with spit while singing your opening line (Nakia).

For next week's finale, it sounds like they're going to do an "original song" (whatever that means) and a duet with their coach. The duet with coach could be interesting. I foresee Christina running Beverly over on their duet, something really quirky from Cee Lo and Vicci, and lots of high voices between Javier and Adam, and the best partnering coming from Blake with Dia.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SYTYCD8 Top 20 Dance Again

Thanks to Nigel Lythgoe's "everybody's safe" show last week, the So You Think You Can Dance Top 20 all lived to dance another day, with most of them not receiving the luxury of dancing in their own style. As a result, we saw lots more uneven routines and, for me, only just one instant-classic standout routine.

This week, Debbie Reynolds served as a guest judge, and even if she didn't offer any criticism, at least she was funny. Playing the Betty White dirty old lady role, Debbie was suggestive, offering to take Wadi and then Jess and Clarice home. AND she did a Woody Woodpecker impersonation. Amazing!

Ryan Ramirez/Roderick Ricky Jaime - Jazz, choreographed by Mandy Moore
"Addicted To Love" by Robert Palmer (Amazon | iTunes)
A Mandy Moore 80's routine! Now Season 8 has officially begun! Nigel felt like this routine was dripping with sexual tension. I felt like Ryan was vamping to the camera too much for it to be as steamy as Nigel said. It was danced well, but I kept noticing Ricky looking at her and her not so much looking back. I didn't totally feel the connection between them.

Caitlynn Lawson/Mitchell Kelly - Contemporary, choreographed by Stacey Tookey
"Turning Tables" by Adele (Amazon | iTunes)
Another stunner from Stacey. She's one of the best choreographers SYTYCD has ever had, and she always picks such great pieces of music. I was most impressed by the acting from these two, especially from Caitlynn, although maybe getting accidentally punched in the face could have contributed to her pained faces. Heh. I'm going to go out on a limb right now and call her a dark horse to make the finale. She's wonderful. 

Missy Morelli/Wadi Jones - Cha Cha, choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereux
"Cannibal" - by Ke$ha (Amazon | iTunes)
I don't know what Jean-Marc was thinking when he gave them what he called the most difficult routine he's ever choreographed on this show. Missy handled it fairly well, but Wadi was stiff and awkward. I think he's more of a Twitch in the ballroom genre than he is Joshua.

Iveta Lukosiute/Nick Young - Bollywood, choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan
"Baawre" from Luck By Chance soundtrack (Amazon | iTunes)
It's hard for me to fairly critique Bollywood routines because a) I don't know the dance and b) I'm SO sick of it on this show that I almost automatically hate it. There were times when I thought their dancing should have been sharper. Nick once again showed more energy and more spring to his step than Iveta.

Miranda Maleski/Robert Taylor Jr. - Hip-Hop, choreographed by Tabitha & Napoleon
"Break Ya Neck" by Busta Rhymes (iTunes)
Miranda was doing way better than I thought she would ... until she stumbled short on the back tuck and nearly fell on her face. Prior to that, though, she was hitting it pretty hard. I would not call her the best contemporary dancer who's done hip-hop though. Ahem, Lauren Gottlieb and Courtney Galliano, to name a few!

Clarice Ordaz/Jess LeProtto - Contemporary, choreographed by Stacey Tookey
"Cathedrals" by Jump Little Children (Amazon | iTunes)
Ooh Stacey is evil - she gave the little man lifts to do! Props to him, though, for not dropping her! But I did agree with Nigel that they danced well separately but not as much together.

Jordan Casanova/Tadd Gaduanng - Viennese Waltz, choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereux
"Fade Into Me" by David Cook (Amazon | iTunes)
OK maybe Nigel was onto something last week when he said Tadd could go far if he continues to pick up the choreography. I scoffed then, but I'm starting to become a believer. This kid is good. His flow was nice, he did discernible rise and fall, his lifts were strong. If Wadi is Twitch, Tadd is most definitely Joshua. And we haven't even see him breakdance yet. The dance was beautiful, and I love how this show continues to remain on the cutting edge of music. This song isn't even available yet - it's a track on David Cook's upcoming album, which comes out next Tuesday.

Melanie Moore/Marko Germar - Jazz, choreographed by Mandy Moore
"Sing With A Swing (Raf Marchesini Radio Edit)" by DKS (Amazon | iTunes)
These two are terrific dancers, and they really command the stage, especially Melanie. This wasn't the most exciting routine of the night but their showmanship really enhanced the routine. The lift combined with the immediate arabesque was gasp-inducing. Marko probably could have done without picking up that hat right before the lift - it was a bit clunky.

Sasha Mallory/Alexander Fost - Hip-Hop, choreographed by Tabitha & Napoleon
"Coming Home" by Dirty Ditty Money & Skylar Grey (Amazon | iTunes)
The routine is about a couple reuniting after coming home from Afghanistan. Maybe it's because I was expecting something completely different, but this routine did NOTHING for me. It was too jerky, and I really just didn't get what they were trying to say.

Ashley Rich/Chris Koehl - Broadway, choreographed by Spencer Liff
"Please Mr. Jailer" by Rachel Sweet
It was a little hard to get into the routine because of the bars, but there were some good moments there, like Chris's impressive reverse planche on the bars in the opening and Ashley's high kicks.

My guesses for Bottom 3 couples:

From this group, I think they would save Missy and Wadi. Wadi was dancing way out of his genre, and they liked Missy tonight. Plus, they weren't in the bottom 3 the week before.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eight Voices Compete For Finale Spot

We're now down to two from each of the four teams on The Voice, with the eight contestants vying for four spots in the finale.

Cee Lo and Adam Levine started the show with their cuts. Cee Lo's audience pick was Vicci Martinez, so he was faced with a choice between Nakia, Curtis Grimes and Tori and Taylor Thompson. I mean, really ... what other choice could it have been? Obviously Cee Lo picked Nakia. Adam had a tougher choice and literally whined about it before he got started. After Javier Colon was put through as the audience pick, Adam had to choose between Casey Weston, Jeff Jenkins and Devon Barley. He tried to get rid of Carson Daly first (brilliant idea) but settled on Jeff and Devon, leaving Casey as his pick. I was surprised by this considering how much he has propped up Jeff, and Adam even said that he came in thinking he was going to save Jeff, but I thought Casey deserved it. Well done, Levine.

Frenchie Davis (Team Christina) - Like A Prayer by Madonna (Buy on iTunes)
Christina put this up-tempo dance track to this song, and I just feel like she's trying to pigeon-hole Frenchie into the disco diva/popular in gay clubs type of singer. The only part of the song that I thought was really interesting was the end when Frenchie took it to church.

Nakia (Team Cee Lo) - Whataya Want From Me by Adam Lambert (Buy on iTunes)
Nakia was hesitant about singing this song at first but got comfortable with it after examining the lyrics. The opening just on piano was stunning. I wish he had kept it like that, to be honest, but still, I thought he did a good job on the song and put in his own touches. Adam Levine endangered himself by telling Nakia he wasn't familiar with the song and that he "probably sang it better than the person who sang it originally." Rut-roh. You in danger, girl!

Dia Frampton (Team Blake) - Losing My Religion by R.E.M. (Buy on iTunes)
Dia keeps doing songs that my favorite reality show singers have had moments with (Heartless and Losing My Religion). If she does Billie Jean next, I'll be done with her. Having said that, this was as much like Ryan Star's than Heartless was like Kris Allen's (meaning not really at all). And I really loved the hand claps she added to it. She's talented, and she's definitely more creative than most of the people on this show, but let's get real - she's not totally original. Also, her personality totally gets lost. She's so meek and blase, almost to a point of being forgettable. Almost.

Casey Weston (Team Adam) - I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton (Buy on iTunes)
Levine totally blew it with this very tired song choice. He was aiming for her to go between Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton, but it was more Carmen Rasmusen than anything else. Holy goats!

Maroon 5 and Christina broke up the competition with a performance of their new single "Moves Like Jagger" (Buy on iTunes). I hated this song when I heard the recorded version, but it's better live. Less autotune, more Adam Levine visuals. And let me broken record this: Damn, Adam Levine is hot. Especially in a suit. Christina, though ... gurl, what was that outfit?

Beverly McClellan (Team Christina) - The Thrill Is Gone by B.B. King (Buy on iTunes)
I sat up and took notice when Beverly was singing this softly in rehearsal. I didn't know she had another volume except loud rock. She sounded amazing on this song! I think she just earned a ticket to the finale.

Javier Colon (Team Adam) - Fix You by Coldplay (Buy on iTunes)
Adam and Javier talked before the performance about balancing between staying true to a song that means so much to a lot of people and making it your own. I think just having Javier's honey tones singing makes it different enough, and I think he struck a good balance. It wasn't his best performance of the competition, but it was still very good, and it was nice to see a more rocking side in the second half of that song.

Before the final two performances, Blake Shelton had to join in on the singing, performing his current single, Honey Bee (Buy single on iTunes). Blake worked the stage and the audience better than all the Voice contestants combined, and then he brought his two contestants up on stage to sing with him. Oooh nice touch and a good way of getting them some extra stage time. SNEEKY.

Xenia (Team Blake) - The Man Who Can't Be Moved by The Script (Buy on iTunes)
Another Script song? Can we branch out a little bit? Although she does sing their songs really well, she can't make her living as the lead singer of a Script cover band. And she needs to lose the angry faces when she sings. But like Adam said, her voice is so unique that you know it's her the minute you hear her.

Vicci Martinez (Team Cee Lo) - Dog Days Are Over by Florence & The Machine (Buy on iTunes)
The staging of this was fantastic with all the drummers and with Vicci drumming herself. As Adam said, "coolest performance of the night". That definitely helped to brush aside some vocal patches that weren't quite pleasing.

Beverly (Team Christina)
Vicci (Team Cee Lo)
Javier (Team Adam)
Dia (Team Blake)
Nakia (Team Cee Lo)
Xenia (Team Blake)
Frenchie (Team Christina)
Casey (Team Adam)

Video Of The Day: Mat Kearney's "Hey Mama"

Mat Kearney world premiered the official music video for "Hey Mama" at Filter Magazine. The toe-tapping, super-infectious tune is the lead single off his upcoming (Aug. 2) album Young Love.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Video Of The Day: Alicia Keys "Blackbird"

Alicia Keys celebrated the 10th anniversary of her Songs in A Minor with special concerts in London and Paris. She will also be doing a special piano-only show in Los Angeles on June 24 (tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 am), and she also has a sold-out show in New York on June 30.

This video of her cover of "Blackbird" by The Beatles is from her show in London this past Monday:

(Video by SisterUsurp)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So You Think You Can't Decide, Judges?

In keeping with this year's theme of judges being utterly useless on Nigel Lythgoe-produced shows, the So You Think You Can Dance judges pussed out on the elimination in the first week of live shows, choosing not to eliminate anyone this week.

You have got to be kidding me. IT'S WEEK ONE! And since they don't trust America enough to let us fully make the decisions on elimination here, they need to actually do their job and eliminate someone. If they're so torn up about kicking two people out now, they'll be downright suicidal when they have to eliminate four next week.

And it's not as if there weren't some clear candidates for elimination. Robert's solo was underwhelming, and his jive the night before was the worst performance of the night. He and Miranda were the least shocking bottom 3 dancers by a country mile. Clarice probably should not have been in the bottom 3, but her solo was the weakest amongst the girls.

Then there's Mitchell, who did not dance in the performance show due to injury. As I said in my performance show recap, if you can't dance, you should be the one leaving the competition. Period. It's unfortunate, but I don't think there should be free passes. There aren't in sports - if you're hurt, you forfeit. Mitchell was able to dance his solo tonight, but it wasn't one that blew me away enough to argue for his survival.

Speaking of the solos, a couple of things stood out for me:
1. Season 1's Melody must have her spirit living in the rehearsal studio with all the HMV moves in everyone's dances.
2. Jess and Tadd's solos are a breath of fresh air amidst the multitudes of contemporary and jazz dancers
3. Robert is a b-boy and did zero tricks in his solo. Does he even understand what the point of the solos are?

The music from tonight's show:
Group Dance (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh) - "XR2" by M.I.A. (Amazon | iTunes)
Keri Hilson (lip-synched) performance - "Lose Control" (Amazon | iTunes)
Mitchell solo - "Say" by John Mayer (Amazon | iTunes)
Jordan solo - "Hot Like Wow" by Nadia Oh (Amazon | iTunes)
Tadd solo - "Jump, Jive An Wail" by The Brian Setzer Orchestra (Amazon | iTunes)
Clarice solo - "Glam" by Christina Aguilera (Amazon | iTunes)
Jess solo - "Mr. Bojangles" by Robbie Williams (Amazon | iTunes)
Miranda solo - "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Leona Lewis (Amazon | iTunes)
Robert solo - "Electric" by Omarion (Amazon | iTunes)

Next week, four dancers will go home. It would serve Nigel right if the bottom 3 couples consisted of three of the front-runners so he'd have to make Sophie's Choice. Maybe then he will realize how asinine this is. I don't buy his comment about giving them all a chance to dance before eliminations. That's what the intro show was for last week.

Video Of The Day: Little Big Town Covers "For The First Time"

Country group Little Big Town has a YouTube series of cover performances called "Scattered, Smothered & Covered". Rather than featuring their latest episode, which is cover version # 1,203,549 of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep", I'm bringing you their earlier cover of The Script's "For The First Time", with lead vocals by Karen Fairchild and luscious harmonies by the group, especially in the sing-along part at the end.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

So You Think The Girls Are Strong This Year? The Judges Do!

In case you didn't hear, the girls on So You Think You Can Dance are strong this year! In case you didn't notice this fact on your own, the judges were there to tell you. After every routine. Even if the guy was stronger than the girl.

Yeah, Nigel Lythgoe's machinations are in full effect. If I was playing a drinking game in which I took a drink after each time Nigel or Mary said the girls are strong or the girls are beasts, I would have been drunk within the first hour. Hey, judges, lay it on a little thicker and you'll for sure end up with a male winner (might I suggest Nick or Marko, viewers?)

Jordan Casanova/Tadd Gaduanng - African Jazz, choreographed by Sean Cheesman
"Riding The Waves" by Afro Celt Sound System (Amazon | iTunes)
They didn't always seem in sync, but it was danced well, and Jordan has nice extension. I had to roll my eyes at Nigel's comment about how if he continues to pick up the choreography like this, he would go far. He is really condescending (although not maliciously, I don't think) to hip-hop dancers.

Sasha Mallory/Alexander Fost - Contemporary, choreographed by Travis Wall
"Stupid (Mark Bell Mix)" by Sarah McLachlan (Amazon | iTunes)
What a great piece of dramatic music, paired with strong dancing. The judges were very high on Sasha and not so much on Alexander, criticizing his lack of emotion/connection. I have a feeling this "the girls are so strong, the boys need to step it up" mentality is going to fester throughout the season. (Post-show edit: LOL at  "throughout the season". How about "throughout the next two hours"?!)

Clarice Ordaz/Jess LeProtto - Broadway, choreographed by Tyce Diorio
"Me And My Baby" by Liza Minnelli (iTunes)
What happened to the days when people would get dances completely out of their element? We already had the episode where they dance in their genre last week. Having said that, though, these two did a great job with their dance. Jess, naturally, was a standout. His leaps and spins were effortless. Yet still, more Nigel "the girls are so strong this year!" comments.

Ryan Ramirez/Ricky Jaime - Lyrical Hip-Hop, choreographed by Christopher Scott
"Ain't No Sunshine" by Lighthouse Family (Amazon | iTunes)
The two of them were precise in their movements, but Ryan seemed way too smiley for the song and routine. She explained that she was conveying happiness in remembering their love, but I think that was a misstep on either her or Chris Scott's part. It distracted from the routine.

Caitlynn Lawson/Mitchell Kelly Robert Roldan - Jazz, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh
"In For The Kill (Skream's Let's Get Ravey Remix)" by La Roux (Amazon | iTunes)
Mitchell was the first casualty of the season, injuring his elbow and sitting out the dance. Caitlynn danced with likely All-Star Robert Roldan, and it didn't once seem like she was an amateur dancing with a pro. She was outstanding.

Miranda Maleski/Robert Taylor Jr. - Latin (Jive), choreographed by Jason Gilkison
"Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars (Amazon | iTunes)
I love this song, but their dancing was kind of atrocious. Their kicks especially. It was fun, but technically, my untrained eye was bleeding. I can't believe Mary brought out the screaming for this.

Missy Morelli/Wadi Jones - Jazz, choreographed by Sean Cheesman
"Judas (R3hab Remix)" - by Lady Gaga (Amazon | iTunes)
Hate the song, loved the routine. They both have a strong presence on the stage. It's so crazy how Wadi jumps on and flips over everything. I still don't understand why the judges act so surprised over his ability to do other styles. He's proven it several times over.

Melanie Moore/Marko Germar - Contemporary, choreographed by Travis Wall
"Turn To Stone" by Ingrid Michaelson (Amazon | iTunes)
Wow what a great routine, from music to costuming to makeup to lighting to choreography to dancing. Travis may have blown his wad in week one, but what better dancers to do that for than these two? I can't believe, though, that Nigel is already calling Melanie the best female dancer they've ever had on this show. IT'S WEEK ONE! SLOW YOUR ROLL, NIGEL!

Ashley Rich/Chris Koehl - Hip-Hop, choreographed by Christopher Scott
"Forget You" by Cee Lo Green (Amazon | iTunes)
I really did not enjoy that choreography. It seemed a bit pedestrian compared to other hip-hop routines we've seen in past years. Bring back Cicely & Olisa! (omg did I say that?!) Dance-wise, I thought Ashley was way better than Chris, and she showed a lot of personality.

Iveta Lukosiute/Nick Young - Ballroom (Quickstep), choreographed by Jason Gilkison
"Ballroom Blitz" by Sweet (Amazon | iTunes)
LMAO Iveta looked less than thrilled to see Nick as her partner. He's adorable though, and his energy was through the roof, enough so that I was watching him more than her. His carriage when they were in close hold was fantastic.

My guesses for Bottom 3 couples:
Caitlynn/Mitchell (due to his injury)

Going home: I have a huge pet peeve about how injuries are handled on these dance shows. If someone can't compete due to injuries, they should go home that week. Plain and simple. Like I've said before, in the Olympics, they don't allow you to advance to the finals on your Olympic Trials time if you got injured. If you're injured, you're done. Period. End of story. I'm not sure what Nigel and Mary are going to do here, but I think Mitchell should go home, especially if he doesn't deliver the best solo the show has ever seen. Miranda will likely join him if she's in the bottom 3. Her routine was easily the worst of the night.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Voice - Women, Team Adam Rule

Tonight's episode of The Voice gave us a good idea of the direction this show is going in this season. Basically, this show is being dominated by the women and by Team Adam.

The show started with eliminations (and crocodile tears from Christina Aguilera). Advancing as the top vote-getter from Christina's team was Beverly McClellan, and a rambling Christina chose to save Frenchie Davis. And at the end of the show, Blake Shelton saved Xenia after Dia Frampton was declared safe by the public vote, much to Carson Daly's surprise. Which I don't get. Is he stupid or just a massive tool? Or both? Of course Xenia was going to get picked, especially over her (inferior) male teammates. Her iTunes rankings have consistently been high.

Also dominant is Team Adam. Adam Levine has assembled a strong team, and unfortunately, Casey Weston may be in danger. Javier Colon is as much a sure thing to advance as there ever has been. And Jeff Jenkins, despite what I thought was a flawed vocal, seems to have a lot of support from the coaches and the public, and with all females advancing from Christina and Blake's teams, Casey might be expendable. It's a shame, too, because she gave one of the Top 3 performances of the night.

Tori & Taylor Thompson (Team Cee Lo) - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by The Andrews Sisters (Buy on iTunes)
When I say in the title that the women ruled, I am totally excluding these two from the equation. They're not women anyway - they're children. And they performed like children. The whole performance reminded me of grade school recitals, from the outfits, to the juvenile and weak voices, to the dancing. And it was missing a redhead in the group.

Casey Weston (Team Adam) - Black Horse & The Cherry Tree by K.T. Tunstall (Buy on iTunes)
Casey wanted to change up the song and slow it down, but Adam wasn't having it. I thought she had a good idea there and was afraid he totally jacked her with his decision, but this arrangement was different enough from the original, with its very strong harmonica and banjo parts, to work well for her. She biffed a note but otherwise gave a strong performance.

Vicci Martinez (Team Cee Lo) - Jolene by Dolly Parton (Buy on iTunes)
I kind of forgot I was watching a TV competition. That was a very professional performance, and she sounded terrific.

Devon Barley (Team Adam) - Stop And Stare by OneRepublic (Buy on iTunes)
Adam gave Devon a song by his former tour-mates. And like Ryan Tedder, Devon can't quite hit all the notes live on TV. Some were downright painful. He also needs to learn a thing or two about staging. Coming right after Vicci, it was totally amateur hour.

Team Cee Lo - Everyday People
Oh wow there sure were a lot of off-key performances there from Curtis, especially, and also Tori & Taylor. Cee Lo's afro wig can probably sing in tune better than most of his team. Vicci is clearly the class of this team.

Nakia (Team Cee Lo) - Sex On Fire by Kings Of Leon (Buy on iTunes)
I'm sorry, but my sex cannot be on fire watching this guy perform. His voice is fine, but everything about this visually is making me laugh, from the fire dancers to his guido hair and that drop to the ground.

Jeff Jenkins (Team Adam) - Jesus Take The Wheel by Carrie Underwood (Buy on iTunes)
I'm quite shocked he even tried that power note. It was not pretty. Not a lot of that performance was pretty, actually (or "beautiful", CHRISTINA). I didn't like his phrasing, and his pitch was off during the chorus.

Team Adam - With A Little Help From My Friends
This has always been a great group sing-along song. Everyone sounded really good. I had my head down when Javier came in for his solo, and I immediately whipped my head up. Holy ish. His voice is amazing. And it cannot be said enough - Adam Levine is super hot.

Curtis Grimes (Team Cee Lo) - Addicted To Love by Robert Palmer (Buy on iTunes)
Not enough slick-haired fembots on stage. And not enough melody in the song. It just doesn't work well as a honky-tonk country song.

Javier Colon (Team Adam) - Angel by Sarah McLachlan (Buy on iTunes)
It's so refreshing to hear a mentor tell someone to scale it back (JIMMY IOVINE). It was great advice too - Javier's voice is so glorious and buttery smooth and doesn't need to be muddled with too many melismatic runs. He also can really deliver a heartfelt and powerful performance. He has to be the favorite in this competition.

Javier (A)
Vicci (C)
Casey (A)
Nakia (C)
Jeff (A)
Devon (A)
Curtis (C)
Tori & Taylor (C)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Heartbreaks And Hooligans Hit Hollywood

Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae's Heartbreaks and Hooligans Tour finally made its way to Hollywood. Playing at the Gibson Amphitheater next door to Universal Studios Hollywood, the two rising superstars enthralled a sold-out crowd with what I am calling the best concert of the year for me. And that is saying a lot considering I saw Prince four times this year.

What I loved so much about this concert was the sheer joy of performing that each performer exuded during their sets. Their respective bands played a big role in creating this vibe, and each singer played well off their bands. Plus, HORNS! Horns automatically make things fun. Also contributing to the "Best Show Ever!" feel was the fact that I knew every single song in Bruno's set, and they're all really good songs. The man is a hit-maker, plain and simple.

Show opener Mayer Hawthorne brought a throwback soul vibe with toe-tapping tunes, and his mashup of his own "Dreaming" with Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True" got people grooving in their seats.

"Dreaming/You Make My Dreams Come True":

Janelle's set was a bit more artsy than, well, anyone I've seen lately, but she doesn't skimp on the energy, that's for sure. She is one HELL of a performer. She busted out some James Brown dancing (as did Bruno), drew a painting while singing (at first I was like what in the heck is she painting, and then all of a sudden it was like ohhhhh ... this actually looks like something), sang a beautiful stripped-down cover of "Smile" and tackled the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" with Michael-like vocals. Her closing song, the "Rock Lobster"-sounding "Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)" is just insane. She spent a good majority of the song out in the crowd and literally scared the crap out of the front row (and earlier the entire venue with a blood-curling scream right into the microphone), and ended the performance with a piggy-back ride up a side aisle to a loge exit.

"I Want You Back":

"Cold War":

Bruno's set, as I said earlier, was full of hit songs and hooky tunes. And a buttery, soulful voice to die for. He has a vast array of varying songs that can appeal to all different kinds of people. There's pure pop ("Just The Way You Are"), throwback R&B ("Runaway Baby"), slow jams ("Our First Time"), reggae ("Liquor Store Blues"), Island ("Lazy Song"). He brought out his rocker side during "Billionaire"/"Money" and "The Other Side". And he married rock, pop and even Mariachi during a particularly epic "Grenade". I can't say enough about Bruno as an entertainer, singer, songwriter and musician. Basically, he is the shit.

Nothin' On You:

Liquor Store Blues:

Somewhere In Brooklyn/Talking To The Moon (Encore):

And here are a couple of videos from my friend ocamy24:


Marry You/Lazy Song (the banter between Bruno and Phil Smeeze about Phil's line in Lazy Song is quite hilarious):

Our First Time:

Top Of The World:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Video Of The Day: Katy Perry "Last Friday Night"

Katy Perry premiered her music video for "Last Friday Night" at Appropriate place for a premiere seeing how hilarious this video is.

The whole video plays like an homage to the 80's, with a Sixteen Candles-like storyline of nerd-girl Kathy Beth Terry (Katy Perry) throwing a raging party at her parents' house and ending up awake in bed with some hottie shirtless guy (similar to Farmer Ted and Jake Ryan's girlfriend waking up in a Rolls Royce in a parking lot after the party at Jake's house). The opening and end credits are also very John Hughes-like. The opening scene of a paperboy biking through the neighborhood delivering papers and the end credits of outtakes and bloopers were pretty common-place in 80's movies.

There are cameos aplenty in this video - Glee's Darren Criss and a wheelchair-less Kevin McHale are party-goers. Rebecca Black (yes, that Rebecca Black) plays Katy's best friend. Corey Feldman and Debbie Gibson are her parents, Kenny G. is her uncle, and Hanson plays the band in the backyard.

Friday, June 10, 2011

SYTYCD8 Top 20 Revealed

Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance has picked its Top 20, and it's looking like it's going to be a girl's year. The Top 10 guys feature more specialized dancers - four hip-hop dancers, a tapper and a Broadway dancer. The girls are heavy on the contemporary and jazz dancers and have just one specialized dancer - the lone ballroom representative in the Top 20. And after watching each gender group dance separately at the end of the show, it's clear that the girls are the class of the show, and it's going to be a dogfight to make the Top 10.

Contemporary Dancers - Group 1:
Stacey Tookey routine - "In This Shirt" by The Irrepressibles (Amazon)

Ricky Jaime (Miami, FL) - Ricky seems like a cross between Danny Tidwell (S3 runner-up) and Brandon Bryant (S5 runner-up). Will two runners-up equal a winner? We'll see! He is amongst my Top 3 on the guys' side.
Miranda Mileski (Pittsburgh, PA) - I cannot say I remember her at all. That doesn't bode well for her future on this show.
Melanie Moore (Marietta GA) - Her making the Top 20 was a no-brainer since her first audition. I adore her. She is ethereal.
Sasha Mallory (Bakersfield, CA) - I feel like they strung her sister Natalia along just to get them together at Green Mile to split up. Sasha was far and away the better dancer of the two, and Natalia is nowhere in the league of the other girls in the Top 20. It will be interesting to see if Sasha is as interesting without Natalia to play off.

Hip-Hop Dancers:
Dave Scott routine - "Everyday (Coolin')" by Swizz Beatz featuring Eve (Amazon | iTunes)

Chris Koehl (Garland, TX) - He got cut at Green Mile last year but made it through this year despite nearly getting cut at the ballroom round. I haven't seen much of him, but I have yet to be really impressed.
Wadi Jones (Ossining, NY) - I think he's one of the top male contenders and easily the class of the hip-hop dancers. He can do the tricks and handle choreography quite well.
Tadd Gaduann (Salt Lake City, UT) - They kind of sped through his making it through, so I'm thinking he's in the cannon fodder category.
Robert Taylor Jr. (Brooklyn, NY) - He seems to have a big personality, one that could help him get away with poorly-danced routines if he runs into trouble.

Ballroom Dancers:
Jason Gilkison routine w/ Pasha - Ven A Bailar (On The Floor) by Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull (Amazon | iTunes)

Iveta Lukosiute (Klaipeda, Lithuania) - She is the lone ballroom representative this season. I have a feeling she won't be partnering up with Pasha again during the All-Star rounds in the Top 10. Russian ballroom female dancers have traditionally not done well in the voting rounds, amirite Snow and Faina? Plus, Iveta's hip-hop was kind of cringe-worthy. It was the same feeling I get when watching European figure skaters try to do exhibition routines to rock or hip-hop music. Eeeek.

Jazz Dancers:
Sonya Tayeh routine - Vanguardian by Steed Lord (Amazon | iTunes)

Clarice Ordoz (Whittier, CA) - I actually would have picked the other girl (Bridget) she was up against instead of her, but that's just based on the little footage they showed right then and there.
Marko Germar (Dededo, Guam) - I remembered Marko most from being the guy who was shot in the arm during a robbery. He is a very good dancer, though, and I see him as having strong Top 10 potential.
Jordan Casanova (Chino Hills, CA) - Jordan has a sexed-up style of dancing that she makes me a little uncomfortable due to her age (she's just 18). But she did say that her intent was to make people uncomfortable, so there you go.
Missy Morelli (Carvado, CO) - Missy's dance style is even more sexed-up than Jordan's. She reminds me of Jessi Peralta in Season 3. Which means I don't think this won't end well for her.

Broadway/Tap Dancers:
Christopher Scott routine - Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter by Nina Simone (Amazon | iTunes)

Jess Leprotto (Little Falls, NJ) - He is TINY. It will be interesting to see him in partner dances when he's probably going to be the shortest in any combination. He was also painted with the arrogant brush in this episode, so he has an uphill battle.
Nick Young (Franklin, WI) - I have not been a fan of any tappers on this show in past years, but Nick is far and away my favorite tapper on this show. His style is more enjoyable for me, and he seems more versatile. Doesn't hurt that he's attractive too. ;)

Contemporary Dancers - Group 2:
Travis Wall routine - Moth's Wings by Passion Pit (Amazon | iTunes)

The majority of people in this group have barely had any screen time. But Ryan Ramirez more than makes up for the rest of them, since she's had (and will be given during the dances) more screen time than all the rest of them combined.

Caitlynn Lawson (Moses Lake, WA) - I don't think we saw her in previous episodes, and it's curious that she's been kept mostly hidden till now when Nigel has told her at least twice that she is his favorite.
Ashley Rich (Antioch, CA) - Ashley was one of the standouts from the first episode, but she was barely shown in the Vegas episode, and she was mostly relegated to the back and sides in the group dances. This does not please me.
Mitchell Kelly (Chicago, IL) - Cat Deeley voiced-over that "we first met Mitchell in Atlanta". Except that "we" didn't. He wasn't featured in that episode. Maybe there was a shot of him running out with a golden ticket, but he was never identified in that episode.
Alexander Fost (Alhambra, CA) - It came down to Alexander and Jeremiah for the last guys' spot. I have no impression of Alexander since we've barely seen him, but Jeremiah will always have the stank of his Season 4 temper tantrum after forgetting Mia Michaels' choreography during Vegas week, so I shouldn't really be too surprised.
Ryan Ramirez (Morgan Hill, CA) - Ryan is probably the most well-known of the dancers in the Top 20 because of how far she got last season (she was cut in the Green Mile episode a year ago). I feel like she and Sasha have been getting the lion's share of airtime, and Ryan is also getting featured front and center in all of the group dances she was in. In this Travis Wall group dance, for no discernible reason, she is the only one in black, while the others are in white. And the other female dancers seem to be relegated to backup status.

Group Dances:

Top 10 Guys
Christopher Scott Hip-Hop - Velocity by Nathan Lanier (Amazon | iTunes)
The choreography was extraordinary, but the execution was not so much at times, particularly in the beginning. Timing was off on a few occasions, and there was a part where the guys were marching backwards and through the door. One of the guys (Robert, I think?) accidentally shut the door while swinging his arm, and the guy in front of him (Tadd) backed up into the door.

Top 10 Girls
Sonya Tayeh Jazz - Pop Drop & Roll by Chonique Sneed & Lisette Bustamante (iTunes)
I liked the guys' choreography more, but the girls executed sooooo much better and so much sharper. As Nigel said, "the girls are beasts this year."

Top 20
Tyce Diorio routine - Little Bird by Annie Lennox (Amazon | iTunes)
There was so much going on in this routine, and the camera work made it hard to see everything. The aerial sequences were breathtaking.