Wednesday, March 29

AI5 - Top 10 (3/28/06)

Tonight's theme is "21st Century" songs... alrighty then. Pretty wide open genre-wise, so everyone should have been able to choose something they could do really well in. Unfortunately it didn't play out that way. Part of the problem is that we're down to 1-hour shows so they're stuck with a really short time frame, and some of the editing is just strange, while others just plain aren't long enough.

Lisa starts off with "Because of You," and though I still love her to death, I didn't really even need to hear her (or the rest) to know that she's going home tonight. She's been in the bottom 3 the past 2 weeks, and goes first with a version that is almost certain to pale next to the original because of the writer/performer's emotional connection. Even if she weren't the 1st Idol winner! It's a weird edit, doing part of a verse & the bridge before the chorus. She does it well until toward the end when there are some pitch problems. Randy thought it was just ok and a weird way to start the night (of course she didn't choose her own performance order, nor find it out before she'd chosen a song). Paula said it was a tough song to do well & needed a twist to give it something original; Simon agreed that it didn't work and said the song was "too big" for her voice. Ryan somewhat condescendingly asked her if she was aware of the risk in her choice and she said that of course she was, but "no guts no glory"! Good for her. ;-)

Kellie chose a Sara Evans song called "Suds in the Bucket." I didn't know it but it's a cute little ountry song & fits her personality; not much to show off vocals except a really long glory note uring which she went off pitch. Randy was "puzzled" by the song choice; he & Paula agreed thatit didn't show her vocal range or talent. Simon concurred that it was a bad choice. Kellie apologizes, twice.

Ace sings "Drops of Jupiter" for several reasons, one of which is just silly because he says he chose it to show a "rock edge"! Hee. But boy does his homework: besides saying Train is one of his favorite groups, he says it's a "Grammy award-winning song that went double platinum"! I loved it; still wish his voice weren't so nasal, and that he'd tone down the stretched out shaky hand and way OTT intense puppy-eyed camera looks, but it was good. Not rock but he did get a bit of a growl in toward the end. Definitely needs to stick to this genre IMO instead of the r&b/hip-hop/obscure Michael Jackson stuff. The crowd seemed to like it, but Randy was disappointed; he said it was a bad choice and he didn't sing it well (I disagree). He missed Ace's usual "soul vibe". (again, huh?) Paula said it was better than the first 2 performances but not her favorite of his. Simon said not a great vocal and "quite karaoke." Oh, I forgot the scar - during the line that mentions a scar he pulls his shirt back a bit to reveal a scar of his own near his collarbone. Strange but whatever; Paula asks if it's "a real scar" & he said yes (from a basketball accident). Ryan asked Ace's opinion on the feedback and he says he's still glad he chose it, he likes the song and felt it. Didn't seem rattled by the comments, which was good (so maybe the shaky performance is just from over-intensity Marty Casey style instead of nerves? hard to tell). Regardless, Kellie, take note; don't apologize!

Taylor looks very nice tonight, maybe his hair is shorter or something? He also gets Idol pimping in that Ryan shows a grey-haired kid in the audience *and* has Taylor explain what "Soul Patrol" means (an online fan group). He sings a song called "Trouble" that I don't know (not Pink's, lol) but is definitely his style. He also stands "still" (for him) at the mic & mostly just sings. He said he wanted to show his "vocal range" but I don't think it was the best song for that; it was good but nothing fantastic. Randy said it wasn't great because it didn't let him "show off," and in reply Taylor reiterated that he just wanted to sing. Paula said she liked that. Simon "quite liked the song" and it had an "excellent vocal," but thought his "styling" was too "pop school" and "very Clay Aiken" (one more time with the huh?!).

GeorgeEEEE! in the audience! Yay! I miss George.

Mandisa sang "Wanna Praise You" by gospel duo Mary Mary and said it means a lot to her because it's a testimony that "there's nothing too hard for God." It's very yelly, but then that's common for that style of music. Also really fast words - of course the whole show seems like it's slightly in fast-forward to me, everything's so rushed because of the time crunch. She's also wearing jeans which are so very not flattering. She sings fairly well and shows a higher range than she has before, but it could be better. Randy doesn't like the song choice; Paula makes a comment that there's a "new religion" and millions have "joined the church of Mandisa," which Mandisa didn't like but she didn't say anything. Paula also says she'd like to see her "color" her performances with "more vulnerability." Simon says it's "indulgent" and he "didn't get it" (obviously). In response Ryan just mentions in giving voting info that it was a "very personal song," which was nice.

Chris is up next and, surprise, surprise, we talk about last week's song. There's been a "stir" online and in the media about the fact that Live (Chris's favorite band) covered "I Walk the Line" in a similar style to Chris' performance, but the judges all praised him for being so original and he didn't say anything to refute that. At least not that was shown; I just assumed it was on purpose as part of his "Chosen One" pimping, but obviously TPTB didn't expect the backlash it caused, so they cleared things up. Ryan asks Chris if he did Live's version of the song, and he says yes. Easy enough. Of course he could have mentioned it in his intro clip last week & it could've been edited out; don't know. Ryan asked him if he actually "worships" Live, and Chris hesitates & then jokes that "we don't need to say that here." Ryan then asks him about potential upcoming themes and how Chris would feel about doing some Celine Dion during a 'romantic song' week, and Chris says sure, "I've got some of that up my sleeve, yeah." Hee! Hope we get to see more of this sense of humor.

Chris sings too. :-) He does Creed's "What If" and prefaces it by saying it's the "hardest" song he's done yet (assumedly referring to style, not difficulty), which proves correct as it's pretty much just a lot of screaming. Oh, he also mentioned how many copies it sold; interesting we get 2 of these tonight & I've never seen anyone do it before, but then Ace & Chris are best buds & roomies so they probably did their research together! Which is kind-of cool. Anyway, I don't care for screaming so I didn't like the song; too bad Creed-loving Mr Pez was out of town so I don't get his opinion. Randy liked the choice but said Chris was sharp for most of the song (wow, a judge admitting he's not perfect?!). Paula said something short & meaningless. Simon started by saying he was going to "be negative for the first time with you," and Chris corrected him, saying it was the 2nd! Hee. Simon said it was "indulgent" and that while this is obviously Chris's preferred style, he needs to remember that "this is American Idol" and do something to show off a different side of him. (This coming from the same person who praised him last week for "refusing to compromise," but Simon has given conflicting advice before.)

Katharine sings Christina Aguilera's "The Voice Within," because she's a fan and because thoughout this entire process" she's learned that "the only person you can really trust is ourself," which sounds somewhat loaded. ;-) She looks great; finally has a flattering outfit! (nice fitted jacket w/jeans) She sang it well and it showed great vocal range; definitely one of her best performances, & that best shows her potential to be "commercial". Randy said it was "a good choice, I guess," but that she sang it "just like the record." Paula agreed that she should have done something to change it up but also said it was her best performance yet. Simon said it was the best of the night and "almost as good as Christina."

Bucky went all-out country and looks mighty fine in his black shirt and hat. He chose Tim McGraw's "Real Good Man" because (I love this) "I just flat out like it." It's obviously a song he's performed before as he does more dancing & 'planned movement' than usual. He had some pitch problems but I thought it was a good performance overall and that country music fans should like it. And boy definitely knows how to play to the camera, yet without being overly dramatic about it. :-) The band covered him up at points but that's certainly not his fault. Randy said it was "the right kind of song" and that he liked it "a lot better." (than the Stevie Wonder he was forced to sing last week? Again, whose fault?) Paula agreed about song choice but cautioned him to watch his diction/enunciation. Simon said it was "unimpressive," "just ok," and that he couldn't understand what he was saying.

Paris says that she chose Beyonce's "Work It Out" so that she can have fun and be a kid, and dance "for the young ones." She then proceeds to sing about having sex on the living room floor and performs dance moves definitely not intended for children. Kind-of like last week's Fever but worse. Does she not realize the inappropriateness of this for her age? (Obviously not.) Vocally it was excellent. Randy loved it, calling her "fearless" and "da bomb," and the best of the night thus far (a nice change from Simon's "best of the night" claims when several contestants remain!). Paula loved it, saying "those weren't kid moves" in a complimentary way. (But then Paula has experience being a young female singer in a genre that requires dancing and knows you gotta shake what you got to be popular, or at least that those who do, are.) Simon disagrees, calling her "precocious" and "a little girl trying to be Beyonce." Ryan called her "Princess P," twice (which was annoying IMO).

Last up is Elliott singing "I Don't Wanna Be." He mentions Bo's cover last season as rock, saying he wants to bring his "soulful vibe" to it. The arrangement is definitely different, more R&B than pop, but feels really rushed to me. The rhythm's different & he seems behind (though he may not be), & trying to dance too much. The vocal improved mid-song & he finished strong; overall good, not great. However, Randy, Paula, & the crowd absolutely loved it. Paula praised the arrangement & said "you are one funky white boy" (he laughed) & that it was "unbelievable; fantastic." Simon disagreed, summarizing "great song, terrible arrangement, good vocal, and dancing was hideous." But how do you really feel, Simon? ;-)

I think Lisa will definitely go (sigh) but I'm having a hard time predicting the rest of the bottom three. Probably Bucky. I'll say Mandisa for the 3rd but that's iffy.


I was out at a concert tonight (The Fray - awesome!!) & won't get to a detailed recap til tomorrow. I enjoyed most of the performances, Ace & Bucky being my favorites & Chris my least favorite. I think Lisa is certain to go but honestly everyone's performance level was close and I don't know who else to predict for the bottom 3; if I have to I'll guess Bucky & Mandisa. More tomorrow!

p.s. I heard there were phone number ID problems again?! Well at least if it's re-run I can vote! ;-)

Wednesday, March 22

Top 11 Results (3/22/06)

YES!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

Intro stuff - 35 million votes, recap of last night (country standards; Buddy Holly; classic love songs from the 2 youngest; back on track w/Kat, Paris heated things up & Mandisa was also hot, but Ace "ignited the love fest," hee!), & cheesy Ford 'commercial'. ("We Got the Beat" on the beach, with rather funky camera shots of their faces, kind-of hard to explain, but last week's was more fun).

Barry was there, and we found out that after the contestants came back to Hollywood after working w/Barry over the weekend in Vegas, on Monday Barry came to CA to help them some more! "On his own dime," as Ryan pointed out (twice), to make sure the band got all the arrangements right & such! Awwww. He sang "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" from his album, and we see Bobby Bennett out in the audience standing & swaying... by the end of Barry's song, they'd brought Bobby up to the stage so he could come out and meet Barry! That was nice. Bobby gave him a big hug & was obviously on cloud 9. ;-)

On to the couches. Back row: Ace, Mandisa, Elliott, Kellie, Chris, and Paris; Front row: Katharine, Kevin, Lisa, Bucky, and Taylor. Going one by one through the back row... everyone is safe! (And Kellie made possibly her most stupid comment yet - and noone laughed - if you really want to know details let me know but it's not really worth the time. ;-) )

Katharine is safe. Taylor is safe. Which leaves the 3 middle folks as the bottom 3: Kevin (woo-hoo!!), Lisa, and Bucky. (2 of my 3 remaining faves.) First safe is... Lisa, yay! So it's one of the guys... honestly based on last night's performances only it's a toss-up, and neither would be surprised to go. But it's... Kevin, and Bucky's safe! Woo-hoo!!!!1!!1!!1!!!!

Sigh, I'm happy. The people I enjoy the most at this point have no shot of winning, but I'll get to see them live on the tour and they'll get to be on the album, so yay! Add that to getting treated to both lunch and dinner, getting a positive performance review at work and seeing my parents for the first time since Christmas, and I'd say I've had a pretty terrific day! :-)

Top 11 (3/21/06)

Another 2-hour show! This week our theme is actually a theme, yay! It's 50's songs. And, since Barry Manilow just released an album of 50's songs, he's our guest star! He will be performing tomorrow night, and the contestants flew to Vegas to work with Barry on their songs. He's so cute... he's such a fan of the show, and such a great arranger; he said if for some reason he had to stop performing tomorrow, that "this" is what he'd do - help other people sing! :-) (Need a fun game while you watch? Count the key changes!!)

Mandisa chooses "I Don't Hurt Anymore," with which I'm not familiar. Barry loves her. I didn't think it was one of her better performances and wouldn't be surprised if she's in the bottom 3. The crowd seemed to love her, as did Randy, saying she was "classy, amazing, great," and that she "set the mark" for the night. Paula said her "performance was flawless," which is not the same as being enjoyable (though I really didn't even think it was flawless). Simon said she's "blossoming" and "sexy."

Bucky sings "Oh Boy!" by Buddy Holly. Great choice!! He had a lot of fun with it, looked confident, showed his vocal range (nice falsetto toward the end), and ended w/a fun little mic twirl (that Randy said he needed to learn, lol). Randy & Paula said it was a great choice for him & was good; Simon gave him a "reality check" and said it was basically "pointless karaoke." Well, karaoke maybe, but certainly not pointless; he & everyone watching (except Simon) had great fun! :) Go, TeaBiscuit, go!!

Paris - "Fever," not surprisingly. Barry was "shocked" by the "depth & power" of her voice, & said she has an "enormous career" ahead of her. Her look is very 50's, very nice. Performance is good, great in points... but something is still lacking. Vulnerability maybe? Not that it's appropriate for these lyrics per se, just she's such the "seasoned performer" that it loses authenticity, which I think she had earlier in the competition (Midnight Train). The audience lovedit, as did Randy and Paula (looks incredible; vocals "impeccable"). Simon said this is what she does best and that she has the perfect voice for that type of song. Which is neither here nor there about her actual performance, mind you.

BTW, we have Ryan Cabrera and Constantine sitting together in the audience! Man, Connie is like the AI5 groupie! Not that I'm complaining or anything.... There was also an ad for Chicken Little on DVD; at least it didn't come on right before or after Kevin's performance!

Chris does "I Walk the Line" for several reasons, including feeling a connection with the lyrics because of his wife [insert programmed "awww" response here]. Barry said Chris has a great "handle" on "who he is and his strength," which lately seems to be mimicking rock covers of songs that fit that week's genre. (I'm told Live did this?) I really liked most of the performance; it was very intense, focusing on his great vocals (though he missed the lowest note); something a bit different, which I think he really needed to show. And the all-black outfit was a nice Cash tie-in (oh, and the stubble was nice). However, he "rocked" the end, turning into every other song he's done so far. Now, prepare to be told what to think: Randy said it wasn't the best vocally, but he loved that he "changed the song to fit" him, and that he's "ready." Paula similarly said it was "true to who you are" and that he grows each week. Simon said he just "loved" it, mainly because Chris is "the first contestant who refuses to compromise." !!!!!! Sigh... no, he's most definitely not. It's just that Simon likes Chris (read, sees dollar signs), whereas he hasn't liked everyone like that in the past, and when *they* don't "compromise" their style, he criticizes them for it. It's unfortunate, because I like Chris, but what they're doing to/with him annoys me so much that I'm starting not to. Oh, Ryan even mentioned how Connie was jammin' along and asked if he's "a fan" of Chris?! Well, of course he's going to say yes!

Katharine needs a new stylist, because I hate the dresses she's choosing. She loved seeing Barry in concert, and said that "now" she understands why he's had such a successful career! Heh. She sings Ella Fitzgerald's "Come Rain or Come Shine," which I'm sure I've heard, but I don't know it well enough to be able to compare it to anything. It's very jazzy, and Kat makes the most of her assets, including playing up the smouldering looks to the camera. The vocal wasn't her best; nothing wrong, just nothing exceptional, until the very end. The audience seemed to love her. Randy also said it wasn't his favorite vocal but it was still strong and that it was a very tough song to sing. Paula didn't say anything worth noting. ;-) Simon said that he thought "tonight, you turned into a star," and he loved it.

Taylor chooses a Buddy Holly tune called "Not Fade Away." When he walked into the room to meet Barry, he was singing "Mandy." He said Barry isn't just a singer, he's a "performer." Barry said Taylor has a great "whisky tenor" voice and that he's one of the best male vocalists on the show. The song itself is very, very, very, very repetitive, and doesn't do much to showcase vocal ability. Taylor focused on some dancing and had fun and entertained the audience well, but it was way too safe & easy for him. Randy acknowledged that it wasn't vocally challenging but he "worked it out." Paula referred to his energy & said someone should film him for an excercise video! Hee. Simon - thank you! - said it was a "complete mess" (ok I wouldn't go that far) and that it was like a "hideous party performance." (To which Randy replied, "that's what the 50's were!") Simon reminds everyone that it's "a singing competition." Heh.

Lisa said as soon as she heard the theme she chose "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" Barry thought that at her age she "shouldn't" know the song as well as she does! He called her "great" and "a powerhouse." :-) I thought her outfit was adorable (from the waist up, anyway), and I liked the arrangement because it/she changed up the melody (both note-wise and rhythmicly) from how I usually hear the song. Randy basically said it was good but not great; Paula liked her "youthfulness" and "energy"; Simon said it was too cutesy & high school-ish, no 'wow'.

Kevin picked "When I Fall in Love," because, as Barry said (calling it a "good song for his age"), he's young & hasn't been in love yet and would like it to be like this when he does [insert 2nd programmed "awww" response here]. In describing Kevin Barry said he's the "sweetest" contestant; hee! Kevin likes to sing ballads strongly (his attempt at belting), but Barry advises him to be more "vulnerable" & sing it more softly; he said Kevin "got it" right away. He starts the song seated and is still vocally way out of his league here, *but* this was probably his best performance yet! Other than a bit much vibrato he sounded pretty good, and did connect to the lyrics emotionally/performance-wise. Randy said that's one of his favorite songs and said that there were pitch problems; however, he still loved it (?!). Paula said he has "moxie." Simon complimented his attitude, starting with "I like you" (to which Kev replied, "I like you too"), & said that Kevin takes things well (Simon seems to admire the confident/snarky comeback Kevin gave him last week, though many people - allegedly including fellow contestants - thought he was cocky and rude). Anyway, Simon said that Kevin knows his audience and that his audience will have enjoyed his performance.

Elliott is almost too honest, telling us that he didn't like Barry's music. However, after working with Barry he feels he's an amazing songwriter, a "genius" at arrangements, and a great "storyteller" from whom he learned a better performance style. Elliott says he's now a "fan-ilow." Ok then. He chose "Teach Me Tonight" ("the Al Jarreau version," which means nothing to me as I don't know the song At. All.). Barry said that Elliott "sings great," but needed to connect more w/the lyrics. The song sounded very "Elliott" (heh) to me, in the phrasing and style (atypical melody/rhythm). He used more gestures than usual (Barry style!) but looked like he was having fun & enjoying the performance more than he has others. It was very good, and he looked great. Randy said it's a tough song to sing & that he did well; Paula said she was "moved;" Simon said the singing was "fantastic."

Lots of ex-Idols in the audience tonight... Jasmine Trias, Lindsey Cardinale, & apparently Carmen Rasmussen though I missed seeing her.

Kellie called her grandfather for song choice advice and when he said Patsy Cline, she chose "Walkin' After Midnight." Barry said she's "a natural" and has "beautiful" voice. He admits he's ignorant about country music though (being from Brooklyn & all) and didn't know the song, he ut likes it and understands why it was popular! Hee. He does, however, give Kellie advice on connecting more w/the lyrics, emoting to tell the story. Ryan introduces her as "*Living* the story...." (Can you get a little *more* obvious, Ryan?) Kellie fittingly "walks" a lot during the song, including on the platform near the judges, & also sings a line or two right to them. Part of me hates to admit it, but I thought she was *really* good tonight! Barry's coaching paid off; definitely one of her best, if not the best. Randy says it was a good choice & she's "back"; Paula calles her "authentic" and a "tigress" (in contrast to the previous "mink/mynx"); Simon said she was great, did what she does best, and was "ballsy" and "sexy." Which dissipates as soon as she stops singing and begins hopping around in excitement, pointing out her own signs (one is pickle-shaped), and not knowing how to answer Ryan's questions. Oh well.

Ace is last, which means they really liked his rehearsal! ;-) He chose "In the Still of the Night," but says he wants to sing in an "urbanized, jazzy" style. Barry is skeptical! But listens... and likes it! I think this is notable though the show didn't play it up, that after showing just about everyone else taking the song to Barry and having him arrange it, Ace suggests an arrangement/style himself (and admits he's never heard anyone else sing it that way)! Barry does say that he "asked" Ace to end with falsetto, saying he thinks "the audience - we all - melt a little" when he does the falsetto! Hee. Ace does a great job; exactly what he needed to do, a recognizable song w/his own twist on it (which I loved), strong vocals over a large range, and had an awesome glory note in there! Ends with just one word in falsetto (and gets the spinning camera treatment which is kind-of annoying, but whatever). The audience loved it; Randy said "Ace is his best vocal tonight but definitely one of his stronger ones, & that he won't be in the bottom 3 tonight. Oh, there was an adorable 8-year old girl in the audience that Ryan called his assistant & he had her toward the beginning of the show & now again before Ace since he's her favorite. That was kind-of cute, in a 'stop wasting my time with fluff and get to the singing' kind of way. ;-)

Overall a good night, and my favorites did well. Too much obvious pimping of *their* favorites, but I can't help that. And no one was terrible. I voted a few times for Bucky, Lisa, & Ace. I expect the bottom 3 to be Kevin, Mandisa, and Paris, with Kevin leaving (*crosses fingers*!!!). Ok I admit that's a bit idealistic. Bottom 3 will probably be Mandisa, Bucky, and ... Kevin, please?!? I don't know. But Mandisa & Bucky both went early, had mistakes, & got good comments from the judges, which means most of their fans won't be in "save ___" mode, so they're likely in trouble. The 3rd really could be Lisa, Paris, Elliott, or Kevin.

Thursday, March 16

Top 12 Results (3/15/06)

Ryan opens the show out in the audience standing next to someone holding a sign for... Ryan! Heh. Says there were 32.5 million votes last night. Short recap, nothing surprising.

Our first Ford commercial of the season, whee! The song is "All I Want" (Toad the Wet Sprocket) and it starts w/Chris on guitar, then Bucky peeks out the back of the... truck? I have no clue what the vehicle actually looked like, lol! Anyway they all appear & start singing... around a campfire... and one is wearing a monster suit, then Katharine shows up dressed like a cop and the suited person takes of the head to reveal himself, & it's Ace. Whatever - cheesy commercial, yay!

Before Stevie Wonder's guest performance he mentions trying to give objective opinions to the contestants in their time together, as well as constructive criticism. Interesting how the only ones we're shown receiving this criticism are Bucky and Melissa. Not sure what he sang, didn't keep my attention.

On to the results: we're looking for the "3 people with the lowest number of votes," however you want to interpret that (what, me, cynical?). First up are Kevin & Ace and Ryan says one is safe, the other's in the bottom 3, and that's Ace! Poor thing, 1st one up there always has to wait forever all by their lonesome, & he always looks so nervous anyway... oh well. Are the judges surprised? Yes, no, usual answers. Next several people are safe: Paris, Kellie, Taylor, and I totally forget the order but Melissa is in the bottom 3 (no surprise) and Chris, Elliott, Mandisa and Katharine are safe. Which leaves Lisa and Bucky... and Bucky is safe, woo-hoo! ;-) Honestly I expected Lisa to be in the bottom 3 but she won't leave yet; Melissa's a sure thing. The others are a sign that early favorites are losing fans as their performances don't stand out so much around other good-to-great contestants &/or sound the same every week, plus some who weren't shown early on (Elliott, Bucky) are replacing them as viewers' favorites.

First safe & back to the couches: Ace, who is mighty relieved & bows w/hands together all Asian-style grateful to the audience/viewers at home. So it's Melissa or Lisa, and as almost everyone predicted, including Melissa herself, she is the first finalist to leave. The judges' reverse pimping was successful! I do love her voice, but you really can't afford to mess up lyrics at this stage, and really, she wasn't expected to get this far, so I'm content. Now if only we could get rid of Kevin next week so all the others are on tour....

She was cute, watching the video clip which included a line saying how music was her passion, & she's kind-of swaying or dancing along to the background music! Unfortunately her sing-out was cut off after about 3 lines, but at least she got to do it for the studio audience.

Wednesday, March 15

The Top 12! (3/14/06)

Intro stuff - 'How they got here' montage, predictable comments from the judges, and "theme" announcement: Stevie Wonder songs. Video clips are mostly about how overwhelmed the contestants were meeting & singing for Stevie.

Ace: "Do I Do" - One of several songs tonight with which I'm not familiar. I remember Mario did it last year but that's about it. So, Ace starts his song running down one of the side entrances, gets the audience clapping, & proceeds to cover almost every inch of the new, larger stage (and the platform by the judges, making him the only one to use it tonight). It's good I guess; hard to say since I don't know the song, & there's a bunch of words crammed into that middle part & it sounded like he might've been behind the tempo?? I liked it better than last week's but "Father Figure" is still my favorite of his. I think sometimes he tries to hard, he should relax & enjoy it more. Randy is meh; Paula loved it; Simon said the vocal wasn't great & it was "a bit manic." Oh, and he danced - not too much, but enough to add some flavor... of course, that's assuming one could actually see anything below his torso, because the cameramen/producers tend not to show full-body shots whenever people dance! (boo!)

Kellie: "Blame It on the Sun" - Ok, a slower one so safer for her. She's wearing a fancy, tight black dress & her hair is curlier; if it were a little shorter she could seriously pass for Carrie's sister, if not her twin. Randy said it was a "non-event" & that the key was too low; Paula & Simon both said it was boring & she was out of her comfort zone. Simon didn't like her outfit (too old?), and said it was her worst performance yet, to which she replied, "I'm sorry." Continuing the conversation Ryan asked about her make-up and she says her eyelashes resemble tarantulas. Alrighty then. At least she knew how to say "genre."

Elliott: "Knocks Me Off my Feet" - which didn't. Elliott's done Stevie songs 2 of the past 3 weeks, and this is his style/genre, so I expected a lot, and was disappointed. He's still got an awesome voice and did a good job, it just didn't really entertain me; I kept waiting for something that never happened. Randy said it was good, not his best; Paula said nothing related to this particular performance; and Simon said it lacked a "'Wow' factor," though it was better than the 1st 2 tonight.

Mandisa: "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" - Another one I don't know, and another one that started out boring. Picked up speed though & the high parts the ending were awesome. Oh, previously Ryan was chatting w/her in the Red Room & she said her feet hurt, so he asked if she wanted him to take off her shoes, and he did! So she performed barefoot. In her clip Stevie said she was "right on the pitch" and that he was "really impressed." Randy said it's the best so far tonight but not as good as she was last week; Paula said she "can sing anything"; Simon said "Now we have a competition."

Bucky: "Superstition" - Great choice!! He said while he wasn't familiar w/Stevie's work previously, he fell in love w/this song & now wants to get some of Stevie's albums. Also said he appreciated the constructive criticism Stevie gave him, that when he gets excited he tends to go sharp; so Bucky said "now I know what to work on." He did a great job; as Randy said, better than we expected! Still too shouty for me, I prefer his softer voice, but the audience & judges liked it. Randy said he could tell Bucky was having fun; Paula said it was somewhat of a safe choice but it was good; Simon said it was his best performance yet! (I wouldn't go that far.) He said the performance was fine, but the "Jessica Simpson hair" had to go - I agree (too curly) & I think Bucky did too, as he made sure to point out that it wasn't his idea!

Melissa: "Lately" - Ok, the judges are being really strange tonight. They're almost reverse pimping; playing down everyone they've lathered w/compliments in the past (except Chris who can apparently do no wrong) and building up the people they've seemed to hate. So, we see Melissa messing up the lyrics *while practicing with Stevie,* and she does it again during her performance!! Yowch. Though Randy & Paula mention it, they don't criticize her for it, and the clip in the recap at the end of the show has the correct lyrics; so either she got them right 1 of the 3 times that phrase is in the song - I only remember it twice - or they used a clip from the dress rehearsal, which I think they often do anyway as then they have more time to edit. Ryan also brought up before she went out that her voice was strained, and it showed during the performance. However, the judges didn't think so! Weirdness. Randy said she did have some problems (pitch-wise) but ended well; Paula said she looks beautiful (Melissa had said it's the first time she'd worn a dress) and that she likes her unique voice; Simon said it was "edgy" and "contemporary" and that it was her best performance so far! This is definitely one of those nights where I wonder if I'm hearing the same thing the judges are. Or maybe they realized these folks' fans having been voting in "Save Bucky/Melissa" campaigns and think if they praise them they'll be seen as safe & not get as many votes? Who knows at this point.

Lisa: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" - Well, I wanted her to do something more up-tempo, but she added too much 'performance' to it instead of just having fun, IMO. She said Stevie had encouraged her to take the feelings she has when singing (her preferred genre) ballads and infuse them into this, & there were definitely moments when you could tell she was. Still too many 'act out the lyrics' gestures & a lot of switching back & forth between light & serious moods during the song. Randy said he liked the end (especially the stops w/the band as more of her personality came out); Paula acknowledged her nerves but said she "shined" when she was "outside the melody" (um, ok); Simon loved it because she really "took control" of the stage and has "the It Factor" (take note, Gedeon)! He said it was one of the best of the night.

There was a quick shot of JPL (Jon Peter Lewis, Season 3) in the audience!

Kevin: "Part-time Lover" - Ok, who told a 16-year old geeky looking kid that he could sing this song convincingly?!? Sigh. Pre-performance chat w/Ryan includes having 2 girls come up on stage to actually give Kevin a sign they made. We see Stevie saying Kevin has an "interesting" voice (bwah!) and that he brought "a sense of fun" to the song. Kev also played up his "sex symbol" status & said he tried to make his voice/the song sound sexy. I thought he looked really nervous, was behind the tempo for much of the song, & had way too much makeup on. Randy said it was better than expected & that he loves Kevin; Paula & Simon both said that he sang "in tune" (#1 - I disagree, I don't think he was; #2 - if the best compliment you can give a contestant is that he sang in tune, I'm thinking he's not really finalist material in a SINGING CONTEST, now, is he?!). Paula mentioned his "strange dance steps" but still praised him. Simon brought things back down to earth, saying it was "appalling." Kevin replied that he didn't expect much from Simon anyway. :-) Ryan came up & read another sign which said "Kevin is my heaven," and then said, "Simon is my hell." Hee!

Katharine: "Until You Come Back to Me" - Good but not amazing; the high parts were the best. She said that if anyone had asked her to name the one person in the biz that she'd like to work with, she'd have said Stevie! Also mentioned the "emotional moment" that the contestants shared when they all met him. Stevie said he thought she has a "lot of potential." I thought her eye makeup was way too heavy, & I really don't understand her wardrobe choices (the pregnancy rumor? not doing tons to dispel it visually & she certainly has the figure if she chose to highlight all of it; though my guy friends think she's doing just fine on that account!). Anyway, Randy said the Katharine he fell in love with initially is back, that she was "hot" & "unbelievable"; Paula said her voice "pierces to the heart" & it was her best so far; Simon just said, "You're good!" & then added that at times she reminds him vocally of Kelly Clarkson (at "this stage" of the competition).

Taylor: "Living for the City" - Good job! Possibly my favorite performance of his; great song choice for his voice & not too OTT performance-wise. The crowd loved it as well. He'd mentioned in his clip that as a child he "tried to play" the harmonica like Stevie. Stevie said he heard the feeling & soul in Taylor's voice. The judges loved it: Randy said "hot" and "fearless"; Paula said it was fun & the band were all smiling; Simon said it was "like every dad who's ever got drunk at a wedding (& took the mic to sing); the difference is, you can sing!"

Paris: "All I Do" - As a few others, she was moved to tears by working with Stevie. She appreciated that he told her it was ok to express her emotions in her singing, & he said her "excitement" reminded him of Fantasia. She sang very well, & connects well w/the audience on faster tunes. Randy said she was "hot"; Paula said she's a "seasoned performer"; Simon said it was like 2 different competitions tonight, with the 1st half 'ok' & the 2nd half being great.

Chris: "Higher Ground" - This was the speculated choice for him, & he admitted he was very nervous about this week before learning that this song (covered by The Red Hot Chili Peppers) was by Stevie! He said he was trying to combine the versions, and I'm not sure it worked. I don't know, maybe it was just that the whole rock thing (complete w/psychedelic lighting) didn't fit w/the rest of the night's performances. But to me he seemed really off pitch several times, & I just didn't enjoy it much (another song I didn't know though, which is one factor). Chris has hit a rut for me but I've still thought he was a great singer; I didn't even get that tonight. However... judges' pimping of him is still full on. Randy said he loved how Chris "made it his own" like he does every week; I didn't get Paula's response, but Simon said it was the best of the night (Not by far IMO!) and the only "real world" performance of the night, meaning he could see him having this song as a hit right now. Wow. Oh, and Stevie had said he liked the tone of Chris' voice & that he "sounds sincere." I will say I loved how he went over & stood by the backup singers & the band for part of the song.

And that's our first week of finals. Overall disappointing, but mainly due to the limited song choices. And I know several of the contestants were more nervous w/the different stage & larger audience. (I threw Bucky & Lisa a few votes each, but no one wowed me enough to be craxy about, since Will's gone....) So hopefully next week will be better. Stevie is performing on tomorrow night's results show, so I'm guessing there won't be a group number. But, I forgot to mention - Bucky did a little choreography during his song & totally ended w/a pointy pose! Yay, pointy pose!!! :-)

Friday, March 10

Top 16 Results Show (3/9/06)

This week there were 46 million votes cast. Ryan shows us 12 empty seats waiting to be filled with Finalists. Who, starting next week, will have a bigger stage, bigger studio audience, bigger band... and a stylist!

First this week's recap. Some contestants stuck to "what they know best": Bucky did country, Chris did rock, Mandisa belted, & Taylor was "all soul." Others tried something different (Paris & Elliott). And Will split the panel. For the other young contestants age played a major part (Lisa, Gedeon), though not all were positive (Ayla, Kevin). Katharine "attempted" Aretha; Ace "tried his hand at Michael Jackson"; Kellie "broke her country ties & rocked out." Melissa "tried to rock," and Simon made a prediction (that she'd go). Kinnik was last & I missed what they said, but probably mentioned that Simon also predicted she would go.

Bo Bice is here! Ryan chats with him a bit, about his career, & about his infant son (already a Skynard fan!). Ryan asks Bo what he's going to sing, and I found Bo's wording interesting: "The single." Not, "the first single," or even "the current single," just "the single." Hopefully I'm just reading too much into it, though it certainly didn't get much airplay here & has already dropped off our Top 40 station's playlist. Anyway, Bo sings "The Real Thing." He starts out fine though he's changing up the chorus melody & singing much of it lower, which is fine, but then I start to wonder because he goes for some other high notes and, really, is not hitting them, which is unusual for him. Maybe he just has a cold or something. It is fun to watch him, & he seems to make eye contact with several different people in the audience, waving & laughing quite a bit at one point.

Moving on to the eliminations... The girls are up first, and we're looking for the contestant with the lowest number of votes. Lisa - safe (yay!). Melissa - safe. Ayla - safe. Kinnik - has the lowest number of votes. She takes it very well, has a great attitude & is grateful for the experience, saying she feels she's "full-fledge a winner." She sings.

Next the guys. Ryan chats with a couple of them a bit - asks Ace what they all said to each other before coming out. He says that out of 42,000 who auditioned, they made it this far & should be proud of that. Asks Kevin if he's nervous, which of course he is. And mentions Gedeon's smile. He starts with the back row, beginning with Kevin - safe (sigh). Gedeon - safe. That leaves Bucky and Elliott, and I'm worried (my ideal boots would have been Kevin and Gedeon, so I know I'm losing someone I like & consider better than them...). Bucky - safe! (whew) Elliott - also safe! Below him on the end of the first row is Will - who has the lowest number of votes.

I'm really surprised, because I thought he had a number of (voting) fans & would have also picked up some of David's fans' votes. Oh well. He doesn't look shocked and manages to smile as he stands up with Ryan, who asks him if he's ok, and he says, "yeah, I'm fine." He's very mature & classy about it, great experience for anyone "getting to sing for these 3" (the judges). Ryan says, encouragingly, "you're still young," & Will says yeah, he's just 17 (I guess his birthday was last week?). He says he's learned so much (from fellow contestants) and feels he's improved already between his initial audition and now. Ryan asks the judges to give him some advice/feedback, and they're all very positive & supportive, even Simon, saying he has a good attitude & determination & should succeed in whatever he does, & several of them compliment his maturity. He gets to sing out and is great, dancing a little more at the beginning and truly looks like he's enjoying himself, not just 'making it through.' There's a great shot of the Goofy Girls, roommates Kellie & Katharine, doing some choreography in the balcony (arms out for "Stop," etc.). As he finishes Ryan invites the other guys to come up & "show him some love." Elliott comes up behind & pats his shoulders, while Ace gives him a big long hug; Bucky is also right there looking all sympathetic and big-brotherly. Seems like he'll really be missed (not just by me, lol). Aaaand that's all of the details I can think of, so I guess I have to say good-bye and move on.... *sniff*

Ok, back to the girls! Paris is the first named to the Top 12 and does a Happy Dance across the stage. Katharine is also through. As is Kellie... of course when each one gets over there they all have a big hugfest, but Kat & Kellie are especially excited the other is through. Mandisa is safe and Ryan says that Simon will get his wish of seeing her on a bigger stage! ;-) Lisa also makes it through - yay! (Not sure I could've taken losing both my youngsters on the same night!) So Melissa and Ayla are left standing, and after the break, and after the judges are asked who'll go, we find out that Melissa is safe (YAY!!), and Ayla is leaving (boo). She is really surprised & emotional such that she can't really talk yet, and Ryan gets all comforting & says lots of encouraging stuff that doesn't really help but is all he can do. The judges are nice & complimentary, calling her "a winner" & again acknowledging her hard work. I feel really bad for her during her sing-out; it's always killer when they pick songs about either leaving or about having promising future, to then sing those lyrics knowing you're out! She does ok once she gets into it. I will miss her, but now she can take the basketball scholarship & she'll be fine.

On to the guys. Taylor is the first male to make the Top 12. Ace is also through (yay!). As is Chris, who of course practically runs into Ace's arms for a big hug once he gets across the stage since they're best buds! Next is Kevin... and he's through. Ok, fine. Elliott - is safe! So that leaves Gedeon and Bucky. Well, knowing that a "surprise" was predicted (by Nigel on a talk show), I feel fairly confident, and am soon relieved to hear that Bucky is through and Gedeon is the one leaving. Ryan asks him if he's surprised and he admits that he is, but has a good attitude & is fine for his sing-out. There was a shot of Paris looking really upset, not sure if just over Gedeon or all 4 at this point; that's gotta be hard for them too as I'm sure most of them have gotten very close.

At the end we again get a montage set to "Bad Day" (I used to love this song, not sure if I still will, lol!) of clips of the 4 who are going home. Gedeon had much shorter hair in his earliest audition! And one clip has Will saying, "Don't mess with Texas!" Hee.

I'm really glad that we'll only have to lose one person a week from now on. On the one hand I like the extra focus on the whole Top 24 this year, but then we get more attached to people sooner which is good if they stay but hard if they don't. Well, we're again shown the funky/dorky dance clips as the Finalists are "introduced," and told that the first week's theme will be Stevie Wonder songs (which isn't so much a theme as a specific song choice catalog, but whatever). Should bode very well for Elliott, Taylor, Ace, Paris, & Mandisa, but will be interesting to see what the others do. I'm expecting it'll be a challenge for Kellie, Melissa, Chris & Bucky. ;-) Can't wait!!

Thursday, March 9

A Time for Mourning...

Ok maybe that's a bit extreme, but for any Idol addict, when your favorite goes, that's all you can do.

I'll do a full recap tomorrow. The basics: booted were Kinnik, Ayla, Gedeon, and my Will.


Wednesday, March 8

Top 8 Guys (3/8/06)

Gedeon starts things off, and again we're learning something new & surprising from everyone in the video clips. Gedeon paints, and shows a picture of a globe combined with a record, because "Music makes the world go 'round." Gedeon sings "When a Man Loves a Woman." It's very good, not overdone but does show his vocal talent. I'm just not sure about the rest of his 'package,' with the strange enunciation & over-the-top ("OTT" - I have a feeling I'll be using that a lot tonight) personality. He said he chose the song because of "all the women" in his life and he "knows how to love them," though he mentioned his mom & grandma so it wasn't quite the direction Ryan was trying to take it. Randy likes how he's an "old soul" and while the song had weak spots, the "end note saved it." Simon said it was too cabaret/OTT, but he's interesting & growing on him.

Chris talked about his old hairstyle ("like Ryan") & we got to see 2 photos. He said when his hairline started receding he shaved it all off, & likes it & plans to keep it that way. He sings Seether's "Broken," which (the original) for me is made by Amy Lee's vocals & how the two blend & contrast. Chris obviously doesn't have that. His background singers are too loud, to start with, but they sing the wrong type of harmony for this song, more traditional instead of the current angsty-rock minor-sounding style, for lack of better words. Chris was also flat in parts toward the end; overall I don't think it was a good song choice & probably his worst performance. However, Randy & Paula loved it. Simon called it "boring" and too "indulgent," said he shouldn't take himself/everything so seriously & should do more variety; I agree!

Kevin's disclosure is that he likes & is inspired by Kanye West, and has been known to rap along with his album. And now for something completely different, he sings Don McLean's "Vincent"! Now, I have to preface this by saying that I adore this song. I think it's beautiful both musically and lyrically. While Kevin doesn't have the greatest vocals in the world, I though he did this song justice. He really conveyed the emotion & message of the song, which is powerful. Especially for a 16-year old who likes rap, lol! He has a great future - he's so smart, self-assured, has a great sense of humor... I think he'll be a successful performer of some sort a few years down the road. But of course I totally expect him to get voted off tomorrow. Randy said it was a weird choice but he "can sing" & it was a "good performance." Paula linked his sincerity. Simon however said it was "juvenile" (by which I'm assuming he meant amateurish, because he was very serious during the song).

Heh. Just like last night, we now have extra screen time for one of the favored contestants, happening right before the performance of someone they (TPTB) would like to see go home this week. Poor Bucky. Anyway Ryan talks to Taylor in the Red Room about how his life has changed already. Taylor said he got to meet Christopher Cross and really enjoyed that. Ryan also mentions how "at home" Taylor performs almost every night, & asks if it's been hard not doing that. Taylor responds that he just takes the energy from 6 nights of shows & condenses it into 5 minutes - so now we understand his spastic movements, lol!!

Ok, back to Bucky - Yay, we finally get to hear about Rocky, his twin brother! He says Rocky also sings and "is almost as pretty as me (hee!), but there's only room for one of us in this competition." Rocky sings a country song I don't know, called "Wave on Wave." Just as last week, I prefer the soft verse to the shoutier, rougher chorus, but he seems on key and more confident. His stage presence overall is improving; I think he's getting used to not having his guitar in his hands. It wasn't outstanding, but I think it was good enough for any country fans to want to keep him around. (I hope!) Randy & Paula liked it; Simon was meh, said it was average bar music. Ryan had Rocky come up on stage at the end which was cute.

Will tells us that he's learning Japanese! And in reference to Simon's previous comment, proceeds to say what we're told in subtitles is, "11-year old girls of the world, unite!" Hee. Will sings "How Sweet It Is," and while Ryan introduced it & it's widely known as a James Taylor song, he did a jazzier version, similar to one I'm told Michael Buble does. I loved it (though at this point I admit I'm beyond being able to form objective opinions on this one!) and the audience seemed into it. He had a good 'glory note,' and crooned a bit more than I'd like but I'm sure he'll pick up some of David's fans' votes. Overall a great performance IMO. Randy, however, said it was "below average," & Simon agreed. Paula loved it & said she thought all the guys were "stepping it up tonight." She said he has a distinctive voice & is a good performer, as reasons why he should make the Top 12 (when asked by Ryan). Which is cool, because she wasn't a fan in the beginning & said no to Hollywood, but he's won her over, as I think he is doing & could do to many, many viewers should he stay on & make wise song choices.

Taylor is wearing an Easter Bunny costume in his video clip & tells us that was his first job, in a mall. He has the audience clap as he starts to sing "Takin' It to the Streets," and he sounds almost exactly like Michael McDonald! So it's a pretty good song choice. I'm impressed that he actually stands still at the mic & sings the verse... but he let loose at the chorus and literally looked like a wind-up toy that had just been let go! Especially at the end it was way OTT; I know he was really into the song, but for me it went past "entertaining" to almost scary, with his angry face & the way he was pulling the mic stand & jumping around.... Paula & much of the rest of the audience loved it. Simon said he could "singlehandedly kill the music video industry," but he liked that he had fun and said he's a good performer, and that's what this is about.

Elliott reveals that he has 90% hearing loss in his right ear. I have to comment on this because I don't think we've heard Elliott sing even one syllable off key, and that shows incredible skill. He sings Bryan Adams' "Heaven" and is, of course, great! I like that he did a different style of song, to show his versatility, and he nailed all the vocals. Added a bit of his own r&b stylings toward the end, which was nice. Seriously I think this guy is easily the best vocalist of the group. Randy & Paula loved it, and they both mentioned the hearing loss backstory. Simon said it was a "cop-out," a bad song choice, and that he looked uncomfortable. I'd actually agree w/that a little bit for the verse, but he was very strong/confident for the chorus.

Ace is last & has the least interesting clip - he did odd jobs when he first came to Hollywood (because "it was hard"- maybe that surprised him?) and has become somewhat of a handyman. He sings a Michael Jackson song called "Butterflies" that I don't know. He does a lot of singing in falsetto, very high, & stays on key, & transitions well back to full voice (which Paula mentions later). I think it was a good performance for the type of song that it is, but I'm just not into that style of music. Oh well, I can always "watch it back" muted. ;-) He also seemed more confident than he has in the past for most of it, but then toward the end looked a bit shaky to me. Probably over-perfomed it a bit IMO, but was definitely good enough to advance him. Randy loved it; Paula said it was better than the original (!) & that he has great vocal talent. Simon said the middle was weak, but he "made it work."

I also noticed at the end, like last week, two of the three contestants I think TPTB would most like to go home are flanking Ryan in the line-up as the show closes (Bucky & Will). I didn't pay attention last night which girls had that position but will rewatch & see. I think Kevin should definitely go, but the next one's tricky, like w/the girls; I think it could be Gedeon, Will, or Bucky. I hope it's Gedeon because I really like Will & Bucky (in case you couldn't tell!). Which... probably means at least one of them will be going home. :-(

Tuesday, March 7

Top 8 Girls (3/7/06)

And we're live! No more pretaped shows; from now on everything is live. (In the past performance shows weren't live until the Finals/Top 12.)

Tonight was much better and more entertaining than I expected. I think the voting will be close.

Our pre-song videos this week reveal "little known facts" about the contestants.

Paris is first. Paris says her childhood nickname was "Princess P," but underneath she's really a tomboy. She sings Gloria Estefan's "Conga" - other than an early slip on the lyrics (which are tough), a good performance. Lots of dancing, changed up the song a bit (Paula said she was "surprised by the choices you made melodically").

Lisa said most people are surprised to learn that she's a Jimi Hendrix fan. So much so that he inspired her to learn the electric guitar (on which she plays a couple of notes in the video). She sings a song I don't know called "Where I Stand" and is, of course, very good. Seemed more into the song - connected to the lyrics - than last week, and we find out later that she in fact chose it because the lyrics were so fitting to her situation tonight. The judges didn't like the choice because it didn't fit her youth. Randy said he wanted her to do more "runs" vocally, and Paula & Simon mentioned her great talent even though they thought it wasn't showcased tonight.

Melissa is next & tells us she's a big "car freak" and used to race the boys in high school in her stick shift (yay for stick shifts!). She sings Heart's "What About Love," which was the perfect type of song for her!! She nailed most of it though it was a little rough at the end. Simon focused on that & said that the "last note was your ticket home," and that she "blew it." Randy & Paula like her though, & Randy complimented her song choice. Melissa said she picked it because it was rock (something different & fun) and the lyrics are very meaningful to her.

Kinnik tells us that she loves her some chitlins! Hee. She sings Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," which was risky. I don't think she pulled it off, & I don't think the crowd did either (they stood to applaud but didn't seem very excited about it). Randy said it was a good choice for her but that she "didn't nail it"; Paula was in shock because it was the 1st time she'd heard Kinnik sing off-key and she really wanted to say something nice but just couldn't find it! Simon said she's going home; I agree.

Oh, earlier in the Red Room Ryan asked Katharine about the rumor that's been circulating, that she's leaving the show. She of course says no. What I heard is that she lives close by and her mom wanted her to go home to get some rest, but of course the other contestants thought that was unfair because they couldn't go home so easily. So VocalCoachStageMom supposedly threatened to pull Kat out of the competition. Who knows how much of that is really true. Ryan said he'd heard a rumor that she was quitting because she was pregnant, and after she said no, he said something like, "so there's nothing about you & Kevin we need to know?" Poor Kevin, Ryan just won't leave him alone.

So, Katharine is up. Her clip is pretty funny - she says she went to the Boston Conservatory, which is also where Constantine went. She then says that must be where she learned her "smouldering look" since Connie has it too. ;-) She sings "Think," and I think it's my favorite performance of hers. I love the occasional growly parts; the audience was into it, & I think she needed to do something more fun this week (later she said that was exactly why she picked it). The high notes were a bit weak but otherwise it was great. The judges agreed & she got Randy's first "We got a hot one!" of the night.

Ayla tells us that her dad used to sing to her and that she literally believed that he was Elvis Presley until she was 10 years old! She sings "Unwritten," which is a current Top 40 song - cool! I think it was a great choice - she's another one who needed to lighten up & show her fun side tonight, and she moved around a lot (dancing good; squatting bad) and the audience seemed into it. Randy thought it was just "ok" because it didn't showcase her vocals. Paula & Simon thought it was pretty good, but Simon said he wanted to see more of her youth (such as comes out in her videos) on stage. Ryan asked her about the choice & she said she knew she needed to take a risk & do something out of her comfort zone; smart girl.

Mandisa easily had the best performance of the night - again. She admitted in her clip that she sucked her thumb until she was 24!! She sang "I'm Every Woman," and she was jammin'! The crowd & judges all loved it. Randy said it was the "best vocal by a female this season," and Simon said that she was "in a different league" & set the standard for the rest of the women.

Kellie was last (pimp spot, sigh!). She talked about loving dogs & missing her dog Comet; not really anything surprising there. She sang "I'm the Only One"... and was fantastic! As much as it hurts to admit it, she was very good and I enjoyed the performance - definitely her best so far. With that said, the judges' comments still annoyed me; they all loved it and Simon said he prefers her "over last season's winner" because she's "interesting!" I'm not sure if that was before or after he called her a "naughty (or saucy? I'm not sure) little minx" and she asked, "what's a minx?" When Ryan asked what she thought of the comments, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "I'm a mink." At that point everyone laughed and Simon & Ryan went into hysterics. After Ryan recovered he went for more and asked her what new fish she tried this week, so that she could tell us she had "sall-mon." Bwah!

So, yeah, Mandisa rocked, and Kellie, Melissa & Ayla were very good... as were Lisa & Paris, and Katharine... really the only weak point was Kinnik. I thing Lisa, Melissa, Ayla, & maybe Mandisa are on the bubble and I'm not sure who will go home. Melissa's line was busy a lot as I was trying to vote, so I hope that's a good sign. Thursday will definitely be suspenseful!

Spin (or, Boycott Kellie; Save Melissa!!)

I think most people know by now that there is a lot more than talent involved in choosing American Idol contestants. The Powers that Be ("TPTB") want people with whom the audience will connect, and take into account many factors - looks, talent, style, personality and backstory. What we are shown on TV, especially in the early rounds, is chosen/edited/presented in a manner to promote the contestants they want to promote. Unfortunately for the rest, a *lot* is left out....

This season much of the focus has been on Kellie Pickler, who is "boxed" as a major hard-luck story (mother left when she was small, father's in prison, raised by grandparents), not to mention naive and inexperienced. I'm seeing some 'gossip' around that implies she's not nearly as inexperienced or hard up as we're made to believe. But I'm also seeing actual news articles filling us in on some of the others. Melissa McGhee, for example, whose father and mother have both had multiple arrests and spent time in jail. It doesn't say if she had other family members (like Kellie's grandparents) who stepped in to help, just that Melissa is the oldest of 4 children, so I'm sure she carried a lot of the burden for taking care of the others during that time.

We have been seeing a little more of Bucky Covington the last couple of weeks - like Kellie (and Chris & Heather), he is from rural North Carolina, and is a bit overwhelmed by the California cuisine. What we haven't seen, however, is Bucky's twin Rocky, who also sings. Mind you we saw way too much of the Brittenum twins who aren't even in the viewer-influenced (I just can't bring myself to say viewer-controlled) part of the competition. And we saw Becky O'Donahue's twin. A lot. But nothing of Rocky, at least yet - he's attending the show this week so we'll see!

One more example is Gedeon McKinney. I don't have a link to the original source so I'll just post the excerpt here:

The American Idol Competition was to take place in Memphis, TN in Sept of 2005. It was cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina. Gedeon didn't have the finances to go to Chicago. His teacher suggested that he put on a concert and sell tickets.

Like gedeonfan said, he raised $700 to go to Chicago. His Father was still alive at the time.

Gedeon is the third oldest of seven children. His Father passed away suddenly on Dec 30, 2005 due to kidney disease. Supposedly when Gedeon sang at his Father's funeral, there wasn't a dry eye in the place.

Gedeon's Mom is now a widow. She has 4 other children younger than Gedeon, and was unable to leave them to go to Hollywood, so she sent her Mom, Gedeon's Grandmother. She's the cute one that wears the hat and gets up on her feet and claps at Gedeon's performances. It seems that we sometimes forget that Gedeon is 17, still in highschool and is required to be accompanied with a Parent or Guardian.

Gedeon almost didn't make it to Chicago. If you watch his "Shout" clip, you'll see Ryan getting Gedeon's Mom ready for the good news. Gedeon comes out with the yellow ticket in his hand, and the joy the McKinney's felt is evident for anyone to see.

After the funeral, Gedeon left his Mom and hasn't seen her since Jan. He is mourning the loss of his Father, without the comfort of his Mother. And Yes, because of his Faith, he's still able to Smile.

That is why it was very unfortunate that Simon made the remark he did regarding Gedeon's smile. But I guess it comes with the territory in the Reality TV world. You have to have very thick skin.

Just wanted to provide a little background on what Gedeon has been through the past few weeeks while pursuing he and HIS FATHER's dream for Gedeon.

Now, I'm not saying that backstory should necessarily influence voting (for those few that do vote). But, if it is going to influence your opinion of one or two contestants, then you should also take into account the backstories of the rest. (Or at least remember that we aren't being shown the whole package - about anyone.) TPTB don't want to give you that option; I do.

Friday, March 3

Results Show #2 (3/2/06)

WHEW! Am I dreaming? Or did we just have an elimination of 4 people that actually deserved to go, and none of the bottom 6 were people I'm attached to?! Woo-hoo!!!

Tonight 20 will be whittled down to 16. Ryan tells us there were over 42 million votes cast. And we begin with another group song, yay! This time we get "Love the One You're With," with cheesy choreography and pointy poses and everything!! Wheee! So Melissa starts off with the first solo - surely that bodes well for her (I hope). But why are they hiding Ace? Does that mean something? Ah, I love the "dancing." But I'm also looking for clues about tonight's results....

The recap isn't anything spectacular. Some did slower songs "to show their range" (Will & Ace, Katharine?), others "picked up the pace" & "showed attitude" (Kinnik, Kellie). Song choice was an issue. Several did country, others "stuck to what they do best" (genre-wise - David for one). Confidence was not a problem for some (Elliott & Ayla), and once again the youngest did very well (Paris, Gedeon, Lisa, and Kevin[?!]). But "the diva and the rocker stole the show" (Mandisa & Chris, obviously).

Carrie Underwood guests and sings her current hit "Jesus, Take the Wheel." It's a good song with crossover appeal, I'm not surprised it's doing well. We see Melissa singing along, and Kellie too on the chorus. I've heard Bo will be on next week - yay!!

Eliminations again start with the girls. This week we're looking for the 3 contestants receiving the lowest number of votes, and we go through one by one starting with the back row: Lisa - safe; Ayla - safe; Katharine - safe; Mandisa - safe; Kinnik is the first to be called onstage. Front row: Brenna is in the bottom 3; Kellie is safe; Paris is safe; and we're down to Heather and Melissa. Heather joins the others in the bottom 3 and Melissa is safe! Yay!

Brenna is the first to leave and as soon as Ryan tells her she starts talking about making money, asks Clive (Davis) to call Nigel like she's expecting to be signed... ok, sure, whatever. She sings. Second to leave is... Heather. So Kinnik is safe at least one more week. Heather sings, and we move on to the boys.

With the guys, Ryan asks each of them whether they think they're in the bottom 3 or not; I hate when they do this! And poor Bucky is first... he basically says he doesn't know (as almost everyone will), and we wait... Ryan asks if Bucky wants him to just tell him and the Southern gentleman says, "If you wouldn't mind"! Hee! (Everyone laughed.) Aaaand Bucky is safe! Woo-hoo and yee-haw! (I've really started to like him, in case you couldn't tell.) Next is Ace, who gets the same question, and says he doesn't know... and Ace is safe! Yay! (Gah, I hate this!) Elliott is safe. Sway is the first to be in the bottom 3. And the row finishes with Taylor, who's the first to give Ryan a quick answer: "No, no, no!" Well he was right, he's safe.

From the bottom row Chris is safe, Gedeon is safe, and David is in the bottom 3. Wow! I mean, I think he should be, but I'm surprised as I thought he had more power-voting fans. Anyway we're down to Will (still my favorite) and Kevin... aaaaand Will is safe! Kevin is in the bottom 3, and none of my favorite guys are leaving tonight! Great relief. So who is going? The guy with the lowest number of votes is... David! I'm still shocked. But boy looks relieved to be leaving; I think the post-performance beatings were taking their toll. He sings, and is joined on stage by sad and supportive co-contestants. And finally, Kevin gets to sit down and breathe and Sway is sent home. He gets to sing as well. he's sad. obviously, & I kind-of feel bad for him, but then we weren't given the chance to get to know him at all so I really don't.

Again, whew! I'm very, very happy. For another week, anyway! I love this show! :-)

Thursday, March 2

Top 10 Guys (3/1/06)

Once again - Yay Boys!! :-)

Taylor started out; his "high point so far on AI" has been being recognized in public. He sang "Easy," with lots of "Woo!"'s both during & after the actual performance. So many that what had been fun got annoying. He had people stand up for the song, which is a ballad, but I guess he wanted them to sway (heh, my fingers wanted to capitalize that!). He sang well enough, but it fell into the "good, not great" category for me. And the judges, who dissed the song selection (Taylor said he picked it because Lionel is from Alabama like he is, & Ryan said they're even from the same town). I'm already noticing Ace's brother, as he's in the end seat in the front row in the section right next to the girls! - but apparently I missed Bo, who was also there!!)

Elliott was next & tugged at the heartstrings a bit talking about how his mom got sick & was hospitalized (ICU even) during the Hollywood rounds, so it was really hard to him to focus. He's singing a jazzy song called "Moody's Mood for Love" that I don't know. But it's a hard song to sing (as Paula pointed out) with unusual rhythms & lots of quick words, and he nailed it (Paula agreed). Simon said he wouldn't be able to win "with a song like that," but still complimented his confidence & performance.

Next is Ace, who explains how he always has a beanie (knitted cap) in his back pocket & wears them sometimes but it's mostly for "comfort" (& then compares it to a married person having a wedding ring, which doesn't really make sense). He then sings Daniel Bedingfield's song - I think it's called "If You're Not the One," though he said "If I'm Not Made For You." (nerves?) He does well, including a falsetto, but last week's was better (though I like last week's song better in general). Randy & Paula loved it, said good song choice as it showcased his range, but Simon thought he "struggled" with it. Oh and he seemed quite a bit more confident on stage this week (yay!).

Gedeon talked about how after Simon's big warning in Hollywood that anyone who forgot their lyrics would have a "99% chance" of going home, he was very confident but then totally spaced his song. And from that he learned... I was expecting him to say something about not being cocky, but he just said he learned to never forget his lyrics. Oh well. He sang Sam Cooke's "Change is Gonna Come" and it was decent, but he just seems like a novelty act to me (as Taylor actually did this week, too). Did have a nice glory note at the end. Randy loved his song choice and "throwback" style; Paula & Simon pretty much agreed.

Kevin displayed more of his great, snarky sense of humor, talking about going from the quiet, nice kid in a high school class that "girls feel safe around," to all the attention (mentioned emails) he gets now and his "sex symbol" status. :-) He sang "Heard it Through the Grapevine" because he wanted to "have fun," and he did. It was an ok-to-poor performance vocally, but he gets more & more enjoyable the more I see of him. Paula called him "infectious" (in a good way) and Randy loved all of it (including the vocals). Simon was "more realistic" but also admitted he likes him.

Sway talked about how cool it was that both of his parents were here for his performance last week because he hadn't seen them "together" in years, and he hoped that somehow he was helping "other families to come together" too. Sang Stevie's "Overjoyed," and the judges were not (nor was I - many previous contestants have done it much better). In fact they were downright critical, even Paula (he was "disconnected"), and Simon said "pure karaoke." Wonder if they're starting to realize the greater talent & charisma in some of the other guys & change their minds about who they want in the top 12?

Will talked about the Top 24 party and the fun of the red carpet, and meeting Justin Guarini (whom he watched when he was twelve - thanks for the jailbait reminder) and how cool it is that now he's doing the same thing. Sang "Lady" (the Kenny Rogers one - because it's a country song & he wants to represent for Texas) and it was awesome!! Just the thing he needed to show off his strong, steady vocal ability (since anyone who just started watching last week hasn't seen that yet). He also changed up the phrasing quite a bit (as CI2's Kalan did when he sang it) which shows some musicianship. Ended with a big glory note & got standing o. from the audience. Unfortunately the judges weren't as pleased; Randy was just "unimpressed"; Paula said he showed nice tone & control but it was "too safe"; and Simon said it would appeal only to his 11-year-old-girl target audience (ouch! - well I'm more than 3 times that and loved it, so there!).

Bucky talked about food, and even though some of what he said was very similar to Kellie's last night, he seems 100% genuine and I just don't get that from her. Anyway, he said he expects he'll lose weight because the only things he recognizes on menus are vegetables and rice! ;-) He chose Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls," because Garth was one of the first to "put rock in country." He started out the verse just singing at the mic stand - and was really, *really* good!! (And easy on the eyes.) Pulled the mic off & got louder & growly for the chorus, as the song calls for, & it was still good enough but I'd love to hear him do a whole song softly; he has a very nice voice (good control & perfect subtle country inflections) that his growly voice covers up. Audience loved him - s.o. Randy said it was good overall & it was a great song choice; Paula loved the softer beginning as I did. Simon said he's "sincere" but seems more like an opening act than a star, which got boos from the audience (& Randy). Ryan teased him about going out for tuna rolls after the show & he was like, "I want a biscuit." "And some sweet tea." Gotta love him!!

David told us that when he went for his 1st audition with Randy, Paula & Simon that he'd forgotten his belt and used his mom's cell phone charging cord to keep his pants up. He then crooned (and swooned) his way through "The Way You Look Tonight." It was ok; he did his thing, but I don't like the way he sings and he has no versatility (and when Paula initially put him through she made him promise he'd do pop!). Randy said he was bored but that the band sounded great (hee!); Paula said it wasn't his best; and Simon said he lacked charisma (I definitely disagree w/that) and confidence.

Last is Chris - he just talked about how his life is different in general, not "working" (said rehearsals don't feel like work) and "living the dream" instead. And that his kids are the most popular kids in school now. Sang Fuel's "Hemorrhage," again extremely "current" as the judges have said. Did a great job - brought the house down, dawg! Randy said it was a perfect choice & he could totally see him holding his own on the radio right now. Paula asked, "Do you know how good you are?!" And Simon said he was in a "different class" & "set the standard" the rest of the guys should aspire to; that his was the only performance that would hold up "in the real world." Needless to say Chris was a happy guy!

I threw a couple votes in for Elliott & Chris (couldn't get through much), & lots for Bucky & Will. I would like to see Sway, Gedeon, and David be the next to leave. After that it gets harder; Kevin & Bucky are less talented vocally but so entertaining... so at this point I'd like Will, Ace, Chris, Elliott, Bucky, and I guess Taylor as the Finalists. I'd *really* like to keep more guys & fewer girls, but that's not an option. So I'll enjoy them while I can! Yay boys!! :-)

Wednesday, March 1

Top 10 Girls (2/28/06)

Tonight their video clips are about their "defining" Idol moment. Um, already?! Well, if we have to...

1st up is Katharine, who talks about rooming with Kellie and enjoying being goofy girls together. She sings "All Is Fair in Love." It was ok, the first of almost every performance tonight that I will describe as "good, not great." I didn't think her outfit (combined w/her posture) was flattering at all to her body, but her face is very pretty and she has definitely mastered the camera seduction expression! Randy said it was a safe song choice, not her best performance; Simon agreed & said it was forgettable & she didn't connect w/the audience.

Kinnik said she cried the 1st time she saw the big stage. Taking the place of Heather Ward (well, attempting to, anyway) she dons cowboy hat and sings a Gretchen Wilson song - I'm guessing it's called "Here for the Party." It was pretty good. Randy & Paula were entertained but said it doesn't showcase her vocal range; Simon acknowledged her attempt to stand out (be memorable) but said it was just Disney park quality.

Lisa said with her experience (Lion King) she hadn't expected to be nervous at all, but was, for the Hollywood rounds. Sang another song I don't know, apparently by The Jackson 5, called "Who's Loving You?" It was very good, but lacking something for me; I think it's that all of her gestures and performance seemed too rehearsed. Randy & Simon said poor song choice but Paula loved it.

In Melissa's clip she talked about having a hard time knowing what clothes to pack ("for 4 months"; girl is an optimist!) and how she always wears flip-flops at home in Florida & didn't expect the cameras to pan down to her feet in interviews, but they have, so she was embarrassed. She sings a song by Reba McIntire, "Why Haven't I Heard From You?" I think she looks fabulous (better than last week) and has a good, not great, performance, but probably the best so far. She had good stage presence and the audience was into it, at least. Randy said it was a great song choice & she got the first "Hot!" of the night, but Simon disagreed. While he likes her voice, he didn't think she connected w/the audience; she replied she responded to his comments last week that she lacked personality so she did something more 'fun.'

Heather said she was wowed by walking on the Hollywood strip, where she met a woman carrying a boa constrictor. [Insert obligatory show biz snake joke here.] She probably had the worst song choice of the night in Mariah Carey's "Hero," because she just doesn't have the 'chops' for it, despite the nice (and completely on key) glory note toward the end. The judges agreed: good, not great.

Brenna said the red carpet was her "craziest" experience so far. She sang "Last Dance," which never turns out well. (If she were a "stalker" of the show like Heather, she would know that songs about leaving turn into just that.) Randy, Paula, and I thought it was mediocre, and Simon thought worse. I also thought the short dress was very unflattering to her.

Paris loves the "Hollywood lifestyle" because she gets to be her fun, funky, fashionable self! She sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" standing still at the mic, and was dressed more elegantly/maturely than normal. She was very, very good & it really showed what an awesome voice she has. Paula didn't like her look, said she should capitalize on her youthful energy. Randy said the performance was "hot" but he & Simon pretty much agreed with Paula.

Here's where I'm frustrated, because I didn't get Ayla's performance (or judges' comments) on tape. And yes, this is (surprisingly) a frustrating thing, because I (surprisingly) thought she was very good! (TAR had started so I had turned off the VCR since the tv picture had gone wonky, & I turned it back on but since it was stopped instead of paused I didn't have the little "pause" symbol on the screen reminding me... and we got a phone call so I muted it and didn't worry that I was missing it because I knew I could replay it later! Sorrow.) I only caught the end of her clip but she said the experience was like a makeover for her because she never wore make-up or really tried to look nice before because she was so "athletic." Well she looks very nice now! She sang a Celine Dion song I'm not familiar with, "I Want You to Need Me"? What I heard was very good and my favorite of the evening so far. I didn't hear the judges comments at all; my husband caught a little & said they noted how she wasn't as naturally talented as some of the others but that they could tell she's a hard worker and improving.

Kellie did a great job in her clip showing us her nice shiny "naive country girl" box, talking about eating spinich salads & calamari for the first time. She sang "Something to Talk About" and was good, not great overall, though a few high parts at the end were great. I think she was trying to look less cute & more sexy - she tossed her hair to mess it up more part way through the song - and it worked a little, but Paula still talked about loving how cute she is. Randy loved the performance to death. Simon really emphasized her likability, repeating the calamari line just in case anyone missed that she's cute, naive, and don't forget cute. (But Simon, isn't this is a *singing* competition?)

Mandisa deservedly got the final spot-o'-pimpage. Her clip showed her playing what she called a "practical joke" ("dog jaw") on Ryan, partly to ease her own nerves, but I didn't think it was funny. However, she sang Faith Hill's "Cry" and was awesome. Not completely on key (which Randy mentioned), but as Simon said, when she's "on," she's the best vocalist there. Randy & Paula didn't like her song choice, even going so far as to say the night had a "country-western" theme, however: (1) Simon's usually the one who doesn't enjoy country & he loved it; and (2) since when does 3 of 10 make a majority or determine a theme?! Whatevah.

In the recaps I was pleased to see Melissa's clip seemed a bit longer than some of the others. (I still like her, but I didn't vote & won't be Patrick-sad if she goes.) And wearing my tinfoil hat of suspicion, I notice that for the final scene Ryan is flanked by Heather and Brenna, in all likelyhood the 2 most likely to get voted off.

All in all a disappointing, anti-climactic night, especially after seeing the guys last week. Hopefully they'll live up to the standards they set tomorrow.