Thursday, October 4

Not Dead Yet!

I'm not dead, though my blog appears to be. Just thought I should let anyone know who happens to pass by. ;-) I'm fine, just not blogging these days! I may come back next AI season... we'll see. Feel free to email me or visit the message boards where you may've first found me.

Wednesday, March 21

AI - Top 11

This week is extra-exciting as it will determine the Top 10, which is the group that will get to go on the tour (and guaranteed to be on the album, though sometimes it includes more). Our theme is the British Invasion, and special guests are Peter Noone (from Herman's Hermits) and Lulu. They've both obviously watched the show & know a bit about some of the contestants. And Lulu gives incredibly helpful vocal coaching to the girls!

Haley chooses "Tell Him" and performs ok; keep in mind that's a female opinion. She was wearing shorts and high heels, showing off her legs, and a backless top, the front of which highlighted some other assets as she danced & pranced her way out into the audience and in front of the judges (it wasn't lowcut, just allowed for a lot of... jiggling). With that in mind, here are the male judges' comments: Randy said it was the perfect choice for her & her best performance yet. Simon said "You naughty thing," called it/her fun and young, and predicted that people would be talking about more than her singing today. Finally he gets one right.

Chris R. - "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" In the intro we see Peter saying there "may be more to his voice" than the rather thin, nasal side we're all used to; at least he was tactful about it. Chris started out sitting on a stool on the stage w/just a guitarist on another stool. Another 'ok' for me, just wasn't very interesting. The audience seemed to love it though. Randy said it was a great performance & every note was in tune (aside: is it just me, or is it sad they have to mention this as a compliment rather than something that's a given for the supposed top 11 singers out of around 100,000?!!); Paula said it was a good choice & arrangement. Simon said it was his best yet, he had good control & it didn't sound old-fashioned.

Stephanie sings "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," and I really, really hope she does something like Nadia did w/this song because that was awesome. Unfortunately, she doesn't, she just sings it softly and prettily, but it doesn't entertain me (rather, it makes me want to run to my computer and listen to Nadia's version!!). Randy & Paula call her on pitch; Paula also said she needs to have more fun. Simon said she's losing her edge/soul.

And now the real competition begins... Blake has chosen "Time of the Season" and Blake-izes it. Peter liked the arrangement but warned him not to change it too much... and he didn't, it was just right. A bit of beatboxing here & there, enough of his smooth moonwalk/dancing to show that off, but vocals - especially on the verses - that were spot on, intense, and almost sultry. (Too bad he dresses so unattractively; he was wearing another pair of plaid pants and a jacket over shirt & vest on top.) Randy called it brilliant; Paula said she felt as if she were at a concert. Simon said it was a million times better than last week; it was a good choice & he made it contemporary without messing up the melody. IMO this is the 2nd best performance of the night.

Lakisha admits to not being familiar w/any music from the British Invasion (!), and is torn between "You're My World" and "Diamonds Are Forever." She picks the latter and gets to wear about a million dollars' worth of them along with a very unflattering green dress (Paula's main comment is that she was smart in choosing this song because of the jewelry!). The song is good but different for her; didn't hold my attention other than a couple glory notes. Randy said he "didn't feel enough Lakisha in it"; Simon says it felt too old, both vocally and visually. I agree.

Phil sings "Tobacco Road" and I'm excited he finally gets to show his rock side. I can easily picture him doing 'power ballad' type songs, and I'm a big fan of the genre. Anyway, Peter likes his performance & said it's a great choice for his voice. I agree; not only does it show off his higher range, it shows that he can sing low as well! I mean really low... and really well. Do more of that, please! Randy said it was pitchy in spots but good/enjoyable overall; Paula said it was a good choice for him. Simon didn't like it & said it wasn't believable because he didn't have enough grit. Well, I kind-of agree, but it was still one of his best & will hopefully propel him into the Top 10 where he can sing me a pretty power ballad on tour.

Jordin is up and sings "I Who Have Nothing," another song I don't know. Lulu loves Jordin and says this kind of "dramatic" song will be good for her. Amen, sister! Wow. Jordin really knocks this one out of the park and I soooo hope she gets to do it live because it would be awesome. The song has soft, almost chilling parts, as well as louder sections... she nails them all. The crowd loved it, of course. Randy said she chose a tough song but gave a great performance; Simon said she sang beautifully but the song was depressing.

Sanjaya is also torn between 2 songs; he acknowledges that he's not the best singer in the competition so wants to choose whatever he can do the best. He decides to rock out to "You Really Got Me" and is actually pretty good! When he's singing at full voice rather than softly, he shows off the nice tone we heard from him early on. He was wearing era-appropriate (but not unflattering) clothing, came out to the platform, and generally had himself a blast. I was entertained and am now sure that I want him on the tour, as well as sticking around on my tv for a while. Randy is shocked (pleasantly) & said it was his best yet, and Paula also loved it. The only annoying thing was that there was this girl in the audience so excited to be there that she cried during every performance, and they showed her about 7 times during Sanjaya's song! Well, Simon said "the little girl's face says it all," not understanding that she was actually enjoying it!

Gina picks "Paint it Black" and disappoints me this week. It's not a belt-rock song like the Evanescence, and aside from a few interesting vocals toward the end it just didn't entertain me. Randy said it was pitchy & not her best; Paula said it was way better than last week & could tell that she had fun. Simon said she was so off-key that there were "moments of complete torture" (ouch!), and that she is "style over content." Unfortunately this week I have to agree; I hope the negative comments propel her fans to vote her into the top 10.

Chris S. does "She's Not There," but first we see him showing Peter that he's a guy who does his homework (asking him about some 'sexiest' magazine issue he was in, for example). Chris says he loves this era of music and this is one of his favorite songs. He starts out in the audience and works his way up to the stage. Overall it was good but didn't showcase his vocals enough for me. Randy said he started rough but he liked it overall; Simon said it wasn't the best vocal of the night, but it was better than last week & was fun and showed his personality.

Melinda closes us out with "As Long As He Needs Me" (-wow, no one did "To Sir w/Love"!). She says the theme is out of her "comfort zone," and I agree that it shows in her performance. The ending & a few other parts were really good, but overall it was my least favorite of her performances. She did have a cute new haircut though! Randy said it was the best vocal of the night, stunning, & she's a pro; Paula says she's in her own league. Simon asks if she's really as nice as she seems and said it started out boring but that she made the 2nd half "sensational" with her impeccable vocals.

Whew! Ok, overall Jordin was the best, and the first 3 were the worst. I'm predicting Haley, Phil, and Stephanie in the bottom 3 with Stephanie (I hope!) leaving. Let me know your thoughts!

Grease - Finals

Tonight 3 become 2, and we vote to pick the winner! This is the last competition show, and next week is the last show.

to be continued...

Tuesday, March 20

AI Top 12 Results

There were almost 28 million votes this week. After the recap we get a group medley (Diana Ross songs of course) - yay! And the girls are having reverse hair day - the ones who normally have curly hair have it straightened, and vice versa. And the Ford-mercial! I'd actually forgotten about those. It's to "Float On" and features Chris S. fairly prominently (hmm...). The funniest thing is that when they're in 60's/70's outfits and everyone has wigs on, Sanjaya doesn't because he already has the right hair!

For the eliminations Ryan has each contestant stand up right at the couches & announces their fate.

Lakisha - safe
Gina - safe (yay!)
Brandon - bottom 3
Jordin - safe
Chris R. - safe
Melinda - safe
Phil - bottom 3
Chris S. - safe
Stephanie - safe (wow!)
Blake - safe

which leaves Haley & Sanjaya. I'd have bet money that of these 2 Sanjaya would be the safe one, but he's not!! Haley is safe and Sanjaya finishes out the bottom 3.

Diana performs "More Today than Yesterday," and, well, the quality of her singing was higher yesteryear than today. Her red flowy dress makes her look like a phoenix when she raises her arms. It was sweet when she was performing, that she went over to the couches to sing with & lightly hug the contestants on the end! (Who just happened to be Melinda - sure - and Chris R.)

Afterward Ryan asked her to predict who's going home. She wouldn't; she said "I am!"

Phil is the first sent back to safety, so it's down to Sanjaya & Brandon. Brandon knows that he's the one going home, and he's right. Unfortunately there's no time after the montage & Ryan's introduction to air his sing-out; the credits start rolling & the show cuts off before he even sings one word! Oh well, at least he got to sing for the studio audience.

So, one more week to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and then we'll know who's on the tour & the album.

Wednesday, March 14

AI Finals - Top 12

It's finally the finals! We're back to the bigger stage, band, theater, & live audience, which will be a factor for good or bad in some of the performances. Tonight we are "celebrating" the music & career of Diana Ross, the "most successful female recording artist" ever. She says she enjoyed mentoring the contestants & we see her telling them that she wants all of them to have career longevity.

Brandon is up first with "You Can't Hurry Love." Well, he needs to hurry some up from voters after this performance. Not only was the song not great to showcase his vocal ability, he totally forgot some words in the middle when he paused for a dance move. He didn't cover well, either. Randy said it was boring & he seemed like just a background singer. Simon said it was a complete let-down, a predictable performance and that he showed no star quality.

Melinda sings "Home" and is also predictable IMO: 'predictably' awesome! I always enjoy watching her perform and the crowd absolutely loved it, making Melinda rather emotional as she faced the judges. Paula was also emotional as she knew how much moments like that mean. Simon said she made a boring song good and that she reminds him of a young Gladys Knight.

Chris S. sang "Endless Love." He tried to modernize it by "changing some chords," he explains. We see Diana cautioning him in rehearsal to just focus on singing the melody. The judges said the same thing after hearing his arrangement (which sounded strangely like a Coldplay song). While it was good, it perhaps wasn't as necessary as Chris (& his gut) thought. He also decided to leave the glasses off, which was also a poor decision (he looks like Hurley on Lost!). I feel a bit sad for him because Simon keeps telling people to do something original & stand out, but he got criticized for doing that. He pays close attention to the judges' comments but sticks to his decision when Ryan asks if he regrets doing it that way (standing up for himself in a humble way as opposed to a cocky way, IMO).

Gina sings "Love Child" and was telling "Miss Ross" about how she liked to sing this as a child despite not understanding the story at that time. Diana kept encouraging Gina to "pronunciate" the lyrics so to best convey the story (apparently that is a real word, just used rarely). I thought Gina performed well. Randy said it was pitchy & boring; Paula agreed that it wasn't her best. Simon said there wasn't "much to say" and then kept on talking, lol, saying he did think it was a good song choice for her & it wasn't bad but nor was it great enough to wow him.

Sanjaya's hair is protesting the flat-iron treatment last week by being ultra-curly this week! It's a bit much, but he certainly brings the charisma tonight! And a touch of vocal talent. Despite singing done-to-death-and-then-some-on-AI "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," he projects, embellishes, & creatively enhances several sections of the song. The rest he sings softly & uninterestingly (except for aforementioned charisma; boy was workin' it!), but it's definitely better than the past 2 weeks & shows a touch of why he was in the top 24 to begin with. Randy pretty much hated the performance (said he was "speechless"), though he liked the creativity of hairstyle that he's showing. Paula said he needs to "let go" more, vocally, and Simon (after a few boos) ended by "being positive" and saying that Sanjaya is "brave."

Haley chooses "Missing You" and tells Miss Ross that it makes her think of her fiance. Diana explains she wrote it after Marvin Gaye's death (music trivia!). She also says Haley has a good studio recording voice but doesn't project well enough for a live stage performance. For much of the song this is true, and she is also off-key. However, toward the end there was a strong, high part that showed better vocals than I've ever heard from Haley before, including a glory note or two. Unfortunately, right as she entered that section she botched the words. She'd spoken to Ryan earlier about being more nervous this week so she was very upset after the performance. Randy & Paula focused on the negative but again Simon was complimentary! He started by saying "I didn't think it was that bad," which made Haley totally lose her composure & start crying (partially from relief & gratitude!). He said he was impressed w/her stage presence and some of her vocals. She said that she felt terribly about the performance but wanted the judges to know that she really appreciated the positive comments.

Phil sings "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and for some reason is much more confident and comfortable on stage than he has been. He commented before that he hasn't started off well and that he'd do better this week, and he did! Showed he can sing in the lower range as well as the high stuff; I think this was his best performance yet. I need to listen again, as it's bugging me who his voice reminds me of...? Randy says it's the best male vocal of the night (so far; he's 4th out of 6) but that the song seemed lacking. Simon said it was a good choice but that he shouted the big notes. He said it was still better than last week's. Phil made rawkhands while Ryan was giving his voting number (I read in TV Guide that Phil likes/wants to do rock but doesn't want to be compared to last year's bald rocker!)

Lakisha had never sung "God Bless the Child" before but did a great job! The crowd really loved it, too. She purposefully held back the belting and Randy appropriately complimented her on not overdoing it. He said it was "sensational" & the perfect song choice for her. Simon said, "You either have it or you don't... and you have it!" He said that she & Melinda are in a different class talent-wise than everyone else.

Blake sings "You Keep Me Hanging On," apparently unaware of the song's reputation for getting Idol contestants kicked off! Maybe his changing the arrangement will break the curse, as he made it somewhat electronica). It was interesting that Diana enjoyed his arrangement (unlike with Chris). It was good; I don't think he's necessarily the best male vocalist, but I think he's definitely the most musically talented (and experienced performance-wise). And I don't know why, but he really, really looks like Robin Williams to me tonight! Randy didn't like the arrangement & said his vocals are better than this showed. Paula liked it & said his arr. was better than Chris S.'s. Simon said "I didn't get it" and that you don't need to change classics.

Stephanie sings "Love Hangover" in an Asian-style dress that I don't think flatters her at all. She's good, but she doesn't make me care (I miss Sabrina!). I didn't notice it, but Randy & Paula mention that she forgot some of the words. They also said that she sang well but they were very disappointed she didn't include the upbeat, disco-style part of the song (Simon said it was as if she just sang an introduction). Stephanie replied that this showed her vocals better. Simon said it was a poor choice & she was outsung by several others.

Chris R. sings "The Boss," yet another I don't know. He was cutely starstruck with Diana. It's an uptempo song & she suggested he really "work" the stage & audience, so he started with even more bobbing than usual (stop channeling Elliot!) & went out to the platform for part of the song. Overall it was a good performance & possibly his best vocal yet. Randy said he overdid the runs but he still enjoyed it; Paula said he best (of the guys) nailed the mix of classic & contemporary (I don't know the song & rearrangement wasn't specifically mentioned, but he could have.) Simon disagreed & said based on singing alone - without his charm & personality - that it was terrible.

Jordin is last with "If We Hold On Together," a very Disney-sounding song. Diana said she's beautiful & has star quality, and she told Jordan to focus on her projection (of the lyrics/story). She started seated on the stage & really looks gorgeous. The song was great, she really showed her range vocally and stylistically (belting to soft). Randy was impressed & said she just "made it a 3 girl race." Simon said it was "a little gooey" (hee! and yes!) but "very, very good vocal."

Whew! In summary Melinda was, as usual, the best. I think Brandon or Stephanie will go home & that Haley will round out the bottom three.

Monday, March 12

Grease Semifinals

Tonight we will see the top 6 contestants perform, and next week will be the Finals! I'm assuming this means of the top 3 in each gender, the winner will be announced in one final episode next Sunday. So, it's the last night to vote!

The group opens with "Grease is the Word" using a row of lockers as props (and stage entrances!).

Tonight's guest panelist is Rob Marshal, nominated for 6 Tony Awards, director of Chicago, and brother of Kathleen!

The two guys who will be in the sing-off later are... Austin and Chad. Austin has the lowest number of viewer votes.

In tonight's performances the girls are to show the emotions of Sandy, while the guys are doing Elvis songs to show certain qualities of Danny... I missed the exact wording, but you get the idea.

Allie sings "Natural Woman" and before I comment I have a disclaimer. I'm currently watching Idol Rewind and this week had Kelly's "Natural Woman" performance. Now, for most people, "Stuff Like That There" was her breakout. For me it was "Natural Woman." Rewatching it I still thought it was amazing, and I even got a little choked up thinking about how she was 'making her mark' at the time & how successful she is now & all that. So... back to Grease. It's possible Laura could've done a version that compared to Kelly's, but Allie cannot. Every time Allie sings "You" (...make me feel) I cringe because she just doesn't hit it. The rest wasn't bad, it just wasn't great.

Derek sings "Look Like an Angel" and it's his best vocal performance in weeks. Which makes me nervous for Max & Austin since I want them to be the top 2. I still don't love Derek (but I know people who do! You know who you are!) but this was a good performance.

After each pair sings we get video clips from their friends & family at home! Fun and Idol-ish. Derek gets all teary & Billy's trying to be all supportive, saying "real men cry" & such. Hee!

Laura is up and she sings "Don't Leave Me This Way." I'm not familiar w/this but it's upbeat & has a lot of high parts and she does very, very well! Since Kate left Laura is easily the best female vocalist remaining.

Max... gets "Suspicious Minds." I start to swoon just thinking about it... ;-) He does a great job, totally acting all of the story & emotions of the song. I still wish he would project more but the band was rather loud too & maybe that was part of it. I wish I could put his look & style with Austin's vocals; that would be the ideal Danny!!

Max's 6-year old brother was the highlight of his video clip. The kid totally knows all the moves from Max's "Summer of '69" routine!! Too cute.

Jim was asked to comment on these two performances and just said he was "speechless."

Next we have a group performance of "All That Jazz" in honor of Rob. It's really, really good! He was impressed as well. (Seriously, I think all of the remaining contestants could get jobs on Broadway after this, not leads yet, but definitely work.)

The sing-off is "Rock & Roll Party Queen," and Austin says backstage that he's ready to "fight." The song doesn't allow a wide range, but he shows what he can, as does Chad. The panel says they've decided to keep the best all-around triple threat, the better dancer, singer, and actor, which is Austin. Yay! Billy asks Chad to say which guy he'd pick to win of the 3 left, and he says Max.

Now for the last 2 performances.

Ashley sings "You Keep Me Hanging On," known for getting contestants kicked off of Idol. She does a very good job w/the acting.

Austin gets "I Can't Help Falling in Love" and is just... wow. This is the perfect song to showcase his voice in his best range. Knowing the contestants don't pick their own songs, it makes me wonder if the panel want him to win (or at least get more votes) by giving him this. No choreography to allow him the chance to go over-the-top; just singing and walking around.

I think it's a tough call, but I still prefer Max to win. Any of the girls could do Sandy, but I guess I'd pick Ashley.

The panel give their favorites of the night: All 3 regulars choose Laura (Rob refuses to say!), and for the guys Kathleen picks Max and Jim & David pick Austin (they were the ones complaining he was too OTT before, so you know they really liked tonight's!). I've heard speculation that if Austin doesn't win he'll be asked to play Kenicky & understudy Danny. Either way I think he & Max will have plenty of opportunities in the future. For selfish reasons I'd prefer to see them in a touring show or on tv, since I'm not in NYC!

Sunday, March 11

AI - Top 16 Results

This week there were almost 37 million votes cast over the two nights. We start off with a fun group performance of "Stuck in the Middle with You." Almost everyone gets solos, except for Sabrina & Sanjaya who have a duet... foreshadowing perhaps??

I'll try to do this in order; some were brought down onto the stage in pairs, others singly, to be given their fate of either advancing to one of the chairs for the Top 12 or performing their sing-out and going home.

Lakisha and Blake - both safe
Chris S - safe
Jordin - safe
Phil - safe (he was very emotional!)

Jared - out (boo!). He was surprised; he embellished the vocals more in his sing-out like Paula had suggested, & it was very good!

Melinda & Brandon - both safe
Gina & Chris R. - both safe

At this point Carrie Underwood performed her current single "Wasted." Her vocals are great, as always, and her stage presence has improved quite a bit (of course she's more relaxed not having to compete!).

There was also a big announcement about a new charity program called "Idol Gives Back," in which international and US children will be helped. There was footage of Ryan & Simon in Africa, and Randy will be taking Paula to (his homestate) Louisiana. April 24th & 25th will be the main focus as sponsors will donate based on votes and viewers will be able to donate as well. There will be many guests such as Borat, Pink, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Annie Lennox, Gwen Stefani, and Bono. Quincy Jones is also writing a special song for the top 6 to perform & record.

Back to the results...

Antonella & Stephanie - Stephanie is safe and Antonella is out. (She mixed up some of the lyrics in her sing-out, solidifying the justice of her fate, in case anyone was still wondering!)

The last 2 girls are Haley & Sabrina. Haley, I'm guessing because she's the only contestant who's remotely country this year, is safe, and Sabrina is out. Personally I liked Sabrina better than Stephanie, but many say Sabrina holds no interest for them despite being a good singer (like LaToya London in S3). The judges were surprised & disappointed, Randy outright saying that she should be in the finals. She did her sing-out.

And the last two guys are Sundance & Sanjaya. Really neither 'deserves' to advance, but, not surprisingly, Sanjaya is safe and Sundance is out. The judges aren't just surprised but really make it seem like Sanjaya should not be advancing; he handles it well though. Sundance quips "Somebody give me a job!" before his sing-out, and we get a montage of the 4 leaving.

No big intro's for the Top 12, guess that's just for the Top 24 now. Next week's theme and guest artist is Diana Ross. I think Haley & Phil will need really great performances in order to make it past next week.

AI Semifinals - Top 8 Girls

Jordin is up first. Her video shows that she's a big football fan, the kind that wears face paint. She sings "Heartbreaker" and is very good. Randy says tonight is like a different show & that she's better than any of the guys. Paula loved her energy; Simon said it wasn't her best but she'll be around next week.

Sabrina worked as a reporter for her high school tv show & wanted to be the next Katie Couric, but is happy she discovered singing because she's better at it. She sings En Vogue's "Don't Let Go" and is great, as usual! Randy called it solid but his favorite; Paula said she can sing and is consistent; Simon agreed w/Randy & said [her performance] lacks emotion and personality.

Antonella plays and teaches the violin! She sings "Let Your Hair Down" by Corrine Bailey-Ray; it's a good musical style for her. She also seems more confident, and she sounds pretty good. Randy says it's pitchy & was "just ok;" she's been better. Simon said she's gone as far as she can (in the competition). He did mention the recent media "attacks" & said she's held up well.

Haley was a serious gymnast until she amassed too many injuries to continue (around age 15). She sings an upbeat, country song called "If My Heart Had Wings." It's ok; doesn't hold my interest. Randy agreed (it didn't have a "yo" factor). Paula said she sang well & looks great. Simon said it was horrible & admitted he doesn't remember her name.

Stephanie used to be so shy she wouldn't sing for anyone other than her parents. She sings a Chaka Khan song I don't know and is very good, though it wasn't her best. Randy said parts were pitchy & he can't help but compare her to the original. Paula said she needs to watch the beat but it was "near flawless;" Simon said it was one of her best but that she tends to copycat the original singers.

Lakisha is scared of all animals! She sings "I Have Nothing" and is great; she emotionally connect w/the song which enhances her already awesome vocals. She also straightened her hair & has a nice black dress on; she looks very pretty! The judges loved it; Simon said she brought passion & believability, plus (unlike last week) she looked beautiful. That of course made her very happy! We also get Ryan over with Lakisha's mom & aunt who are exuberantly excited (she says she asked them not to 'act up'!).

Gina shows us her lucky charms: a mini troll she keeps in her pocket, a stuffed pickle, and a pillow from her niece & nephews (w/their photo on it). She rocks out to "Call Me When You're Sober." It's hard for the diva-wannabe contestants to take on famous divas, and it's hard for a rocker-wannabe to take on Evanescence's Amy Lee, but Gina pulls it off! The last note was off-key but the rest of the song was awesome! Definitely my favorite of the night. Randy said she had pitch problems but he loved the vibe; it was definitely back to what they liked about her earlier in the competition; Paula agreed. Simon said it looked like she was comfortable & enjoyed herself. He said that was what they wanted from her, and he hopes she makes it through because she's a "breath of fresh air." She replied, "That's the Simon I love!"

Melinda is last and tells us about some of her quirks, that her friends liken to OCD, such as having to chew equally on both sides of her mouth or touch something cold with her left hand if she touched it with her right hand. Um, ok. She sings "I'm a Woman" and is fabulous! I so love her. The audience does too. Randy said she was the best of the night and is ready to walk into a recording studio; Paula said it was phenomenal & she's very likable. Simon said "You little tiger!" He loved it & said he's glad she's enjoying herself.

The last two were the best of the night & easily my favorites. Jordin, Sabrina, Stephanie, and Lakisha were also very good. Which leaves Antonella and Haley, but I don't think both of them will leave. I predict Haley and Sabrina (but Antonella or Lakisha could be in trouble...?); we'll see!

Wednesday, March 7

AI Semifinals - Top 8 Guys

The last week of Semifinals! Tonight's video clips will reveal some secret thing we don't know about each contestant.

First is Blake, and we learn he loves improv. comedy. He demonstrates one of the characters he does. He sings "All Mixed Up" by 311. I don't recognize it, nor do any of the judges, but it's good, a bit reggae-ish, & he beats a little. The judges enjoyed it & like that he's "current" and different.

Sanjaya apparently lived in Hawaii for a few years and expects us to be surprised that he can hula dance. They straightened his hair tonight and I really, really don't like it. He sings "Waiting for the World to Change" which I also really, really don't like (the song in general). He's better than last week but still the song choices don't showcase his voice. The judges agree.

Sundance says (seriously/dryly) that he's skinny in real life and wears a fat suit for the show... so we don't get to hear a secret from him. He sings Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" and I can't give much of an opinion since I don't care for Pearl Jam (Mr. Pez is a fan, but he didn't see it). Randy said it was pitchy but he liked the combination of Sundance's Southern rock style with Pearl Jam. Paula loved it; Simon said last week was better.

Chris R. reveals that he used to be "chunky" and has lost 40 pounds. Good for him! He sings "Tonight I Just Wanna Cry" and makes me miss Ace. ;-) It was just ok, til the end/chorus which was really good. The judges liked it; Simon said it was a safe choice but he sold it.

Jared tells us he played college basketball. Um, he's a fit, really tall black guy; this is supposed to be surprising? Hee. He sings "If You Really Love Me" and reminds me of Ryan Starr who was recently shown singing this (better) on Idol Rewind. He's good, on key at least. The judges agree, and Paula actually tells him he should add more embellishment to his vocals.

Brandon plays classical piano & we get to hear a little (good night for piano players on Fox!). He sings "I Just Want to Celebrate" which is a strange choice. He's better than he has been with something upbeat like this, but I know he can do better. Paula loved it but Randy & Simon weren't wowed (Simon so much that he called him by the wrong name!).

Phil tells us that he used to have long hair. When he was 'forced' to wear it short (I'm guessing ROTC) he didn't like it so just shaved it all off. He sings LeAnn Rimes' "I Need You," which starts out (like 2 weeks ago) horribly but improves with the strong, high notes. Judges agreed. I really think he could, and definitely should, go home this week; he just doesn't have consistency.

Chris S. is like the anti-Phil and says he always had short hair until about 2 years ago when he shaved it & then grew it out. He says the curls are all natural. He sings "We All Want to be Loved" (DC Talk - cool!!) and is very good; easily the best vocal of the night, though that's not tough to do this week. For some strange reason that she doesn't give, Paula didn't like it at all. Randy says it's the best of the night; Simon says he was shouting in the middle (Simon really doesn't like anything remotely shouty, does he? Did he criticize Chris Daughtry for this last year? I really don't remember his doing that & was definitely shouty!).

My predictions to go: Phil and Jared. Brandon could be in trouble but I think he has a big enough fan base due to more air time than Jared that he'll make it to the finals.

Tuesday, March 6

Grease - Guys' Night (3/4/07)

Tonight, other than sending one potential Sandy home, is all about the guys. We start off with the 4 of them doing "Greased Lightning" with the fitting prop of an actual car on stage.

Each of the guys has some footage from a special 'field trip' designed to help them in their perceived area of weakness.

Austin is up first. He needs to work on his looseness and sense of humor on stage, so he goes to a comedy workshop. Unfortunately he mostly interprets this as, he needs to show that he can "act funny," instead of the real issue which is that he just needs to relax & stop trying so hard at everything. During "Fun, Fun, Fun" he is accompanied by 3 of the girls (making it difficult for David and especially Jim to pay enough attention to Austin to have intelligible comments). About half way through when the goofy 'choreography' subsides, Austin does actually relax and do really well. Most of the vocals are great too; I'd never realized what a range this song calls for. Anyway, David says it's better but is still disappointed; Jim mostly agrees but is still distracted; and Kathleen disagrees and says she appreciates the "energy and attack" Austin brings to the stage & that she thinks he's a great musical theater talent.

Derek is next. He met with a "vocal therapist," whatever that is, but it's different than the vocal coach they all work with every week. He has us all convinced he won't crack again, even mostly through his song "Heaven," but then he does, pretty much sealing his fate. Bummer, as I was finally starting to kind-of like him and think he could be a decent Danny.

Max is told he needs to work on his "physicality" to be able to convince people he's a "gang" leader. Gang in the sense of Danny in Grease, anyway. So he goes to learn to box! Fun. Takes him a while but looks like he gets it. He's assigned "Hard to Handle" and for the first time I can actually understand all the lyrics to this song! Wow, that's some good enunciation. Oh yeah, he gets the stagger & macho attitude down fine too. All the girls in the audience think he's dreamy and though the judges insist on reiterating that he doesn't have typical Danny look (why, because he's somewhat short? Seriously...), they admire his Talent and have enjoyed seeing him improve over the course of the show.

Chad is last and needs to learn to project "energy and emotion" throughout a theater instead of just connecting w/those in front. He does some Shakespearian acting one-on-one with a guy who sits in the last row of the theater, and Chad still has a hard time understanding what he's supposed to do, because he thinks he's the best actor there. (on the show; he's the only actor in the theater so that wouldn't be that hard.) He performs "Don't Stop Me Now," a Queen song I've never heard before that's kind-of hard to follow. It's difficult to sing and Chad's vocal weakness shows; I'm not sure about the projecting. The judges have issues as well but say that they still like him.

Time for the girls' sing-off: Laura and Ashley are safe and run backstage to work on designer prints (get it? Laura Ashley?). Kathleen and Allie are made to sing "It's Raining on Prom Night," but I don't know why they even do the sing-off as the decision obviously has nothing to do with their performance thereof. Regardless, the judges give their decision, and David makes it clear that they were not unanimous. While Allie got the lowest number of votes (really?), she's also the one judgeKathleen & Jim are saving, leaving contestantKathleen to go home the third time the viewers voted her into the bottom 2. Whew!

Lastly the panel members are asked for their favorite Danny of the night, and all 3 pick Max. As do I. I think at this point it's his to lose, we just have to figure out which Sandy he'll work best with.

AI - Top 20 Results

This week there were over 32 million votes cast (and none of them were mine!).

The group song is "Joy to the World" & is very fun!

Guys up for 1st elimination: Phil, Chris S, Sundance, Blake, & Jared are safe; Nick is out.

Girls: Stephanie, Gina, Sabrina, and Melinda are safe; Alaina is out. (She was too emotional to sing, so the rest of the girls came out on stage w/her to 'help'. Shots to the guys showed several of them teary as well!)

Kellie Pickler is here! With a few changes... her hair has aged about 40 years (it's shorter & curly, like a 60's do) and she's almost certainly had some 'enhancements'. Ryan was hilarious, asking her what she'd been spending her money on. She said "shoes," and he asked if there was anything else, & she said no. He said, "Really? Just shoes?!" But then left it at that.

She sang "I Wonder," which she (obviously) cowrote, as it talks about her mom not being around as she was growing up and wondering if she wonders about her. It wasn't bad. Apparently her album is gold already & she's touring as an opener for Brad Paisley!

Back to the guys: Chris R and Brandon are safe. Ryan brings Sanjaya & AJ down onto the stage and then tells AJ that he's been cut. I've seen extremely shocked faces at eliminations before, but Sanjaya's is right up there. He knows AJ was so much better than him... but that's not what it's about, at least not the way the producers edit (i.e. Sanjaya got tons of backstory and early screen time, whereas AJ? Absolutely nothing.). Paula echoes this, saying it's supposed to be a singing competition & tonight doesn't reflect that. Oh well... AJ sings, and is even better than he was Tuesday, which was pretty awesome. Definitely the best vocal performance of the week. Sure, let's vote him off! Makes sense to me.

Girls: Lakisha & Haley are immediately told they're safe & Ryan brings Antonella, Jordin, and Leslie down next to him. Jordin is safe, but unfortunately so in Antonella, leaving Leslie to go home. (Jordin & Gina cry.) We get the montage of all 4 so then Leslie's sing-out is cut-off around the middle. After starting the scat she sings, "Why did I just scat on American Idol? America don't care for jazz...."

AI Semifinals - Top 10 Girls

I'm behind on the recaps (and is anyone even reading??), so I'll keep it brief:

Gina (dedicated to boyfriend Joe) "Alone" - very good! R&P loved; S said he's confused as to who she is (why?).

Alaina (mom) "Not Ready to Make Nice" (? - Dixie Chicks) - not great.

Lakisha (grandma) "Midnight Train to GA" - Paris' was better; this was good but almost boring throughout most of it.

Melinda (2 friends, her "Gails") "My Funny Valentine" - awesome!!! Judges agreed.

Antonella (her brother) "Because You Loved Me" - girl has serious song selection issues. She was better than I expected & better than last week, but still not great.

Jordin (younger brother) "Reflection" - Decent. She was very emotional & I think that hurt her vocals.

Stephanie (parents) "Dangerously In Love" - her dress was gorgeous, the last note was fantastic, and the rest was very, very good.

Leslie (late grandma) "Feeling Good" - great at the beginning when it was all soft & smoky, but did a big scat section in the middle & the end was just meh.

Haley (fiance) "Queen of the Night" - ok.

Sabrina (grandma) "All the Man I Need" - great!

The best of the night & easily my favorite was Melinda.
I predict Leslie & Alaina will go home.

Wednesday, February 28

AI Semifinals - Top 10 Guys

Tonight we will see if the guys step things up in response to the girls' killer performances last week. All songs are "dedicated" to someone and the vid clips will explain who & why....

Phil is up 1st & dedicates his to his military outfit. He sings "Missing You" and it's good but nothing outstanding; at least it doesn't have a 'really bad' section like last week's. Randy & Paula like it; Simon says he's popular & likable but it wasn't unique vocally.

Jared dedicates his song to his parents and sings "Let's Get It On"... ok, it sounds freaky summarized like that! Obviously not all of the songs are actually related to the dedications lyrically... He's no Nikko, but it's decent.

AJ also dedicates to his folks. He sings "Feeling Good" and I'm impressed! Part of me is glad he didn't get screen time until last week, because I had no expectations (whereas people I had high expectations for often let me down...). He has a great voice, range, & control (& didn't grin through the whole song); *very* good performance! Randy & Paula loved it; Simon admitted it was "nearly very good" and acknowledged that he did something different / out of his comfort zone.

Sanjaya dedicates his song to his grandfather (who died when he was 5). He sings "I'm Stepping Out" and is wearing a shiny shirt and a hat (his hair is pulled back); he looks a lot (it's jazzy) and it didn't showcase his voice at. all. Paula advised him to pick songs that fit his youth (he said he picked something "classic" because of his grandfather & the dedication. Randy & Simon said it was bad.

Chris S. dedicates to his wife Sarah; he sings "Trouble" which is good, but nothing outstanding. To me it seemed strange on Idol to sing a love song to your wife in the audience at this stage of the game... The judges liked it alright.

Nick dedicates to his girlfriend. He sings "Fever" and... it doesn't work. Like Sanjaya he sings in a soft voice, but unlike the other song this one calls for a stronger, more powerful delivery IMO. Randy said it was pitchy but he liked the "vibe"; Simon said it lacked charisma. (Oh, I also finally figured out which actor he reminds me of: Robert Downey, Jr.!)

Blake dedicates to his folks. He sings a song called "Virtual Insanity" which is apparently originally by Jamiroquai, but Blake adds some beatboxing & scat to the middle section. I thought it was good, current & appealing to hip hop fans (he also had some good dance moves). Randy & Paula loved it, but Simon was disappointed (he said the first section seemed like a copycat of the original video).

Brandon dedicates to his (deceased) grandmother. He does "Time After Time" & it's too similar to last week's choice; like Sanjaya & Nick, it's too soft to show off his vocals. There was nothing wrong w/it but nothing great either. Randy & Simon agree, saying they were bored, but Paula enjoyed it & says she "felt" the emotion he put into it.

Chris R. also dedicates to his grandma. He sings Jason Mraz's "Geek in the Pink"! I love Jason Mraz, & this song is tough to sing; Chris pulls it off and I am impressed!! Excellent performance; the judges agree.

Sundance is last and I wonder if it's because he's actually decent, or because he's bad again & TPTB really want to get rid of him... fortunately, it's the former! He dedicates to his (2 month old) son Levi and is all teary in the video because he's missing many of the 'firsts' since he's in AI. He sings "Mustang Sally" and rocks the house!! This is the Sundance from the first audition! Great vocal tone, range, & power. The judges love it as well.

Best: Chris R., Sundance, & AJ
Weakest: Nick, Sanjaya, & Brandon
My picks to go: Nick, Jared

Monday, February 26

Grease- "Ladies' Night"

Tonight will focus on the women only, except for the elimination. We will also have guest Frankie Avalon performing (though not participating on the panel). The opener is "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."

This week the contestants focused on acting as they paired up in scenes for Kathleen to evaluate. We get several clips, and see that their scenes involved kissing! I'm guessing if Allie & Max are paired that part should come easily!

Next we find out who's in the bottom 4... Austin, Max, Ashley, and Laura are named, and are safe (yay!). Derek & Allie are also safe. Leavng Chad (wow!), Kevin (yep) Kate (really?!), and Kathleen (definitely) in the bottom 4. The actual lowest vote-getters are, surprisingly, Kate and Kevin. I guess the behind-the-scenes comments last week really hurt her!

The first to perform is Ashley. We see a bit of her acting scenes during the week w/Kevin. She sings "These Boots were Made for Walking" and has 4 of the guys as background dancers/props (well, she does kick them). She's supposed to be showing her sexy side... and apparently doesn't have much of one.

Next is Allie, who acts with Max, as expected. However, their RL chemistry does not translate into their acting; Kathleen calls them too planned or controlled. She sings a song I don't know ("It's Oh So [something]"), but the panel described it as musical comedy. Derek & Austin assist.

Laura was paired with Derek for the acting. She sings "Fever" in order to show her sultry side - backed by 4 guys - and does a good job.

Time for the sing-off so we know who's still around to compete. Tonight's song is "Blue Moon" and everyone is good. The panel says this is the 1st time they haven't made a unanimous decision. They save Chad and Kathleen over Kate! I'm shocked, not to mention disappointed. They say, again (Kathleen was in the bottom 4 last week as well; you'd think they'd take the hint that we. don't. like. her!), that her strength in the acting scenes was the deciding factor. Kate takes it well enough.

So, Kathleen is up; she was paired with Chad for the acting (which means that Kate & Austin were paired, but since she's gone we don't get any clips, boo!). She sings "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and is supposed to show her sweet, innocent side... doesn't work, and for the first time her vocals are actually bad. Maybe 3rd time in the bottom will be the charm?

Frankie Avalon performs "Beauty School Dropout" with the remaining girls.

Then in preparation for next week we get backstage clips of the guys commenting about each other. They think Austin is egotistical and overperforms (I'll agree w/the latter); Chad is seen as not having emotional depth; Max is criticized for having no formal dance training (yet Danny wins a dance contest... "It's in the script!" says Austin); and Derek... doesn't get comments other than one of the guys not being able to list his strengths. I can't wait til next week!!

Oh, and lastly the panel is asked for their favorites of the night: all 3 choose Laura.

AI - Top 24 Results Show

It's our first post-audience vote elimination show of the season! Ryan, looking quite spiffy in a suit & tie (-watching Idol Rewind is reminding me just how far he's come fashion-wise; you could tell he was a radio personality!), tells us there were almost 32 million votes cast.

He also announces the following guests that have been booked to appear on the show during this season's finals: Diana Ross, Jon Bon Jovi (!), Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Tony Bennett, Martina McBride, Lulu and Peter Noone, and Barry Gibb. He doesn't specifically say they'll all be working w/the contestants, but that's what I'm assuming. A few exciting ones in there!

Next we get a good old-fashioned group song, with cheesy choreography a la Season 1 though not quite a pointy pose. The song choice is unexpected: "Sowing Seeds of Love" by Tears for Fears. I'm an 80's girl so I'm not complaining! One thing we do have this season is a majority of contestants who can actually dance. Not that this choreography really shows that (it's more, this small group moves to the side, others come front, etc.), but still, that's something to look forward to.

Ok, on to business! First up are the guys; Ryan has the back row come up to the stage and announces the results: Brandon, Sundance, Chris R., Nick, & then Blake are safe; Paul is out. He gets to sing his song one more time (but no exit montage - yet).

Next up, girls: Jordin, Stephanie, Sabrina, Leslie, and Melinda are all safe, leaving Antonella for last... and she's also safe! Fake-out! Ryan then calls Amy from the front row of the couch and announces that she is leaving. She sings.

Fantasia is here, and she announces that she will be playing the lead role in "The Color Purple" on Broadway, starting mid-April! Good for her. She sings one of her main songs from the show, "I'm Here." It was good, but she's no Jennifer Hudson; I'm just sayin'. Quincy Jones is in the audience and Ryan says he's producing the show, but then as Quincy starts to speak Ryan cuts him off! Oops.

Ok, are they going to end my suspense yet & tell me whether my favorite is getting voted off the first night? No, they're not, we have the girls up again! Sigh... ok, Haley (still, who?), Lakisha, & Gina are safe. That leaves Nicole and Alaina; unfortunately, Alaina is safe and Nicole is out (I think she has a good voice though I didn't particularly care for her performance). Nicole sings.

Lastly, the guys, and I worry because Rudy is standing in the middle. Chris S. (who apologizes to Simon yet again), Phil, Jared, and AJ are safe. Which leaves Sanjaya and Rudy... so I know that Rudy is gone. And actually we're told that "one of you" (the one not eliminated, obviously) is in the top 4 guys - I'm not surprised. Poor Rudy, & poor me. Waaaah! :-( Yeah, I know, I had 2 favorites win last summer so I'm cursed for years & I should've known better.

We get a going home montage of all 4 contestants - set to a Chris Daughtry song!!! (And we thought they were 'pimping' him last year!!) Then Rudy gets his sing-out, but he gets cut off when time runs out. Sheesh.

Well I guess I won't have to worry about voting next week, and at least I won't have to endure several months' (or even weeks') worth of mean comments about another love-him or hate-him contestant; been there, done that! I'll put up some links in another post soon. As Paula said, Rudy is definitely one of the best vocalists they had (she also said he was pitch-perfect, a rarity among this year's guys). Hopefully the exposure he got through the show will help his career, even if he can't go solo yet.

Thursday, February 22

AI Semifinals - Top 12 Women

Ok, ok; I sit corrected. After tonight, last night's show seems very underwhelming, disappointing, and plain old meh! The girls pretty much blew the guys away. The competition. is. on!

We get a recap of last night... afterward Ryan asks Simon if he was mad about what Chris said. He said no, he actually likes it when contestants say things like that as it shows "spirit."

First up is Stephanie. We see a bit of her initial audition, "God Bless the Child." I don't know what she sings tonight, "How Come You Don't Call Me?", but it's awesome! She has very good vocals and a great stage presence (as, actually, do almost all of the girls). The crowd really loved it. Randy said there was some pitchiness, but the emotional connectedness was great. Simon said it was her best performance so far and that it was a million times better than anything last night. This one's definitely not cannon fodder.

Amy talks about how one learns a lot about oneself through an experience like this, and she seems to have a really good attitude. She sings "I Can't Make You Love Me" with a bit of country flair. It's good, but not exceptional. Randy thought it too safe; Paula said she impressed them early on with a bluesy R&B sound that wasn't there tonight; Simon said not memorable.

Leslie... seems to me a bundle of contradictions. She's a dog walker from Chicago who auditioned in LA. Her voice is low and earthy, but she's got a bubbly, bouncy (almost vapid at times) persona. She sings "Natural Woman" and is just way too... excited? for the song... neither her voice (too thin) or attitude are right for it. Randy said the song was too big for her; Simon said she looks uncomfortable on stage and ungainly. My least favorite of the night (and the last note made me cringe).

Sabrina says she's a professional singer and we see a bit of "Nothing at All" from her initial audition. With her hair up (in the interview) she reminds me of Gloria Estefan; with it down (during the performance) she looks like a black Barbara Streisand. This is another song I don't know: "I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You", but she is awesome! She can 'sang,' and is very emotionally 'into' the song. Randy says we finally have ourselves a competition!

Antonella... is way out of her league. She sings "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" and is off-key a bit and just meh overall. Randy says it's not good, pitchy, & bland; Paula said she didn't sing it badly, but it was a poor song choice. She could (and should) be in trouble.

Jordin was one of my early favorites. She seems mature beyond her age (high school junior) with a good attitude and sense of humor. She sings Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason" and is awesome!! So confident and I love, love her voice - powerful, soulful, & sassy. Randy thought it was a bad song choice but Paula & Simon liked it. Go Jordin!!

Nicole is a voice major and was in a Hollywood group with Melinda & Tami; I'd love to see that whole performance!! I'm not familiar with her song ("Stay"?) and I can tell that she has a very good voice. However, I don't like the way in which she sings it at all: she seems angry, like she's yelling at me or whomever that if we don't stay with her she's going to go all Fatal Attraction... and I'm skeered! ;-) Randy says the 'vibe' doesn't fit her and Simon says it was indulgent and aggressive (yes!). Paula is too wowed by her vocal range to say anything else. I think she could have potential with a different style of song, if she gets the chance....

Haley seems like another gal with a good attitude: she's pretty but doesn't seem overly self-confident to the point of being cocky, and says she's excited to be in a competition with so much good talent (and that it's sad so many haven't been discovered yet). She sings "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" (again) and is very good, just not belting-diva good. Randy wasn't wowed; Simon said her voice is good but that it was boring & she sounded 40. I expect her to stick around for now, but she'd better bring her best next week.

Melinda was my other early favorite girl, and tonight she doesn't disappoint! One more song I don't know ("Since You've Been Gone"; the oldy, not Kelly Clarkson's), but she sings with great self-confidence and stage presence (uses the whole stage & interacts w/the audience), not to mention amazing vocals! The audience & judges loved it.

Alaina sings The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket" (wow, I'd have never guessed that was the name of this song!) and is very meh. 'nuff said.

Gina impresses me tonight on "All By Myself." I think she could go far; she's the only white girl tonight who held her own in the ever-growing sea of divas, and with her 'rock chick' persona she's got a unique niche, which always helps. Her vocals are very good, including a glory note (which she did hit, regardless of Simon's disappointment in comparing it with Celine Dion's version). Randy & Paula loved it. Another I'm rooting for!

Lakisha closes out the night with, as Ryan introduces it, "the song that could win Jennifer Hudson an Oscar." Ambitious choice - but she pulls off "And I'm Telling You", and then some! Wow, wow, and wow! The audience & Paula gave her a standing ovation, and Randy said "Jennifer Hudson, watch out!" But Simon got the best line of the night: "I'm tempted to tell 23 people to book their plane tickets home." In another league, indeed.

So! 4 performances were amazingly awesome, and another 2 were very good. There were only 1 or 2 that were noticably off-key at all (as opposed to almost all of the guys), and only 2 I didn't like.

My bottom 3: Leslie, Antonella, Alaina.

My prediction to go: Leslie & Antonella (please?)

Tomorrow night: Fantasia!

Wednesday, February 21

AI Semifinals - Top 12 Guys

We get minute clips of everyone's 1st audition (entrance & exit), plus some of The Chair (& elevator), but no singing. As each is introduced to sing they get a video clip showing their 1st audition (singing) and comments about the process thus far.

Rudy starts the show with a very high-energy "Free Ride." He's a tad too high-energy (Randy calls it corny), but the crowd seems to really love it. The song actually shows his vocal ability much better than I thought it would, partially due to a few glory notes he manages to fit in. Simon says there wasn't anything unique or memorable. I hope he's wrong, and that he's had enough screen time and has enough of a previous fanbase (from M-Pact) that he doesn't get "Patrick'd" (1st up, doing a rock song instead of highlighting balladeer vocals we've heard a bit of before...). I voted for him and have my fingers crossed.

Brandon sings "Rock with You" and is good, but nothing special. Randy says he's pitchy; Simon says safe & predictable (song choice). I was a bit disappointed considering his buzz (as in talk around the 'nets, not his hair, he's one of the few that has some!).

Sundance's song choice of "Nights in White Satin" would have been awesome *if* he'd sung it well. However, he sounded out of tune throughout. Randy said they missed his early bluesy sound; all 3 judges were disappointed and Simon flat-out said "I didn't like you tonight."

Paul is still barefoot and sings "Careless Whisper," which was not a good choice for him. Paula said he oversang & was pitchy; Simon just called it ordinary. I didn't think it was bad, but he could've been a lot better on something different.

Chris R. sings "I Don't Wanna Be" and would've been really good if not for the bobbing (he makes George Huff look like a statue). I was disappointed vocally though there's nothing I can specifically criticize. Randy & Paula enjoyed it but Simon said his vocals were bad & that his voice seemed "small" compared to what we've heard from him before.

Nick sings Richard Marx's "Now and Forever" (and "California Dreaming" in his video clip which I don't think we'd seen before). He's good; he seems comfortable and confident on stage, and has a nice falsetto. Randy disagrees, calling him boring and pitchy. Paula misses the nice "tone" in his initial audition. But Simon says it "wasn't that bad." (which is the closest to a compliment he's come so far!)

Blake answers one of the biggest questions everyone's been asking: Yes, he can sing!! He actually says he didn't want to beatbox in the group part of Hollywood for fear of being pigeonholed, but the others talked him into it. Anyway, he does Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" sitting on a stool and is very, very good! Great tone, control, variety, stage presence... Simon said he was the first of the night to sound "like someone in 2007." He turns out to be the best of the night and is the frontrunner to win at this point IMO.

Sanjaya sings, predictably, Stevie again: "Knocks Me Off My Feet." I thought it was good; Randy strongly disagreed. Simon was bored. He made a sad puppy face but overall took the comments very well (considering his age & inexperience). In his video clip he mentioned that he just got his GED and that his sister suggested the song. Kid is adorable and the only teen boy so he's not going anywhere.

Chris S. talks about his strengths being his strategy and song choice. That being said, I have no clue what he sang, but it was a contemporary rock-ish tune about being "Typical" (or not). Very, very good. Randy & Paula said he rushed the chorus but his voice is good & they still enjoyed it. Simon reiterated that he likes his personality but he didn't care for the song. We get our first real 'talking back' of the season when Chris says that while he "may not sing Il Divo or Teletubbies, that doesn't mean [he] doesn't have a good voice." He said the style of music he did is very popular right now. I don't think he's in danger yet as he's definitely one of the most talented (& well-liked), but he should be careful.

Jared is shown singing "Premonition" in his 1st audition (& "Cupid" in H'Wood) and sings "Back at One" tonight. It wasn't pitch-perfect, but I really, *really* like the sound of his voice. Not to mention he's model-gorgeous (heh, Simon said his song choice was safe but that he looks good!). I hope he sticks around.

AJ "Never Too Much;" he's ok, but has the same seemingly vapid grin on his face during the whole song and doesn't bring anything to the table that we haven't already seen tonight. Randy says he thinks he's a "really, really good singer" but there was nothing special tonight; Simon agrees: "good, nothing great, nothing terrible." At least he had fun and has a decent stage presence.

Phil is last, and we do get confirmation that his wife went into labor early and he did not at all intend to miss his daughter's birth for the Idol auditions! His 3 'girls' are there tonight and we get several shots of his proud wife during his performance of "Could Not Ask for More." He started off very rough in the soft verses, but switched to full voice on the chorus and was excellent. Randy said it was the best vocal of the night; Simon said despite the horrendous beginning, the chorus was ok. Ryan asks Phil what he thinks & he agrees with Simon, saying he'll work hard to improve.

So, in summary:

Best vocals: the BFF Blake, Rudy, and Chris S. (then Brandon, Nick, and Sanjaya)

My favorites: Rudy, Blake, Sanjaya, Chris S., and Jared (then Phil and Nick)

My bottom 3: Paul, Sundance, AJ

My prediction to go: Paul and Sundance.

It's going to be an interesting week. From what I'm reading there are a wide range of opinions on who people liked (though most were disappointed overall). A few disappointed me, but some that I hadn't heard (or expected much) from before I really liked, so I'm optimistic. We have several very good-looking guys, and from what I've seen at least 10 of them have decent dancing ability (really rare!). Maybe (*crosses fingers*) they'll bring back 'real' group numbers with choreography and pointy poses!! (Hey, a girl can dream....)

Tuesday, February 20

Grease - Top 10

The show opens with the group doing "Hand Jive." That's one high-energy number stuffed with fast & furious choreography! I got tired just watching.

We're told it's "Duet Week", so we'll finally get a chance to see some chemistry (or not) between the guys & girls. Also Jon Secada (a former Broadway Danny) is our guest panelist.

The contestants are shown talking about each other, both in general and in regards to who has chemistry with whom. Max & Allie say they definitely have... something. Guys think Derek is the one to beat and girls think Kate is... not overly concerned about being nice to people, let's say! Which she admits; she's here to win!

Since pairings for the performances need to be figured out, the elimination will happen at the beginning of tonight's episode. So we jump right in as Jason, Kevin, Juliana (nooo!), and Kathleen are told to step forward, then told they're "all in" the bottom 4. Billy pauses and there's an awkward silence before he says that means the others are safe and tells the 4 to "take their positions." The sing-off will be "Those Magic Changes," and everyone's good but we pretty much know the judges have already decided so I'm not sure it even matters. This time the judges agree with the viewers & send the two lowest vote-getters home: Jason and Juliana. :-( They say Kevin has the stronger voice (yes) and that Kathleen is a stronger actress (I don't think so, but I pretty much knew Juliana didn't have a shot at winning, so she might as well go now).

First up are Chad & Allie doing "Ain't No Mountain." I've seen way too many Idol performances of this to consider it a romantic song at all, but they do a decent job & end up a bit steamy. He was more convincing IMO than she was, but all the guys think she's hot (& she definitely shook what her Mama gave her) so her acting may not matter so much (David called the performance "theatrical viagra"; I rest my case).

Austin & Laura are next with "I Don't Know Much." Austin does a *fantastic* acting job (lots of little things, like his facial expressions when she touched his cheek) and they both sang incredibly well & their voices blend very well together. Definitely his best performance yet, and the panel seems to agree.

Max & Ashley get "It Takes Two" and they're the best match so far. The song's not one to showcase vocals, but they do a great job at acting much of the Danny-Sandy relationship; attraction, having fun together, and some of him 'chasing' her & her playing hard to get. (In one part they're close & he moves his arm up her thigh; she smacks it away & he turns toward the camera & gives a little shrug, like 'It was worth a try!' Cute!)

Derek & Kate do "From This Moment On." Kate is by far the strongest female tonight, at least in conveying the attraction through facial expressions. I'd say this is Derek's weakest performance; hit a really bad high note, and had a cheesy grin through most of the song... not Danny-like to me. David said he was "bored."

Kevin & Kathleen are last with "Something to Talk About." IMO they should be the next to go. They're good, but underwhelming after the others. Kathleen (the judge) comments that Kevin has a more "legitimate Broadway voice" and I agree; he's more suited to 'regular' musicals than something with 50's tunes.

The panelists give their favorites: David - Austin & Ashley; Kathleen - Chad & Ashley; Jim - Chad & Allie; Jon - Chad & Allie. I'm hard pressed to choose between Austin & Max tonight, but I'll pick Austin, and Kate.

Lastly Jason & Juliana do their sing-out, and it's obvious how much more professional they are than last week's pair! They act the parts they're singing, as they should, yet portray self-confidence (taking advantage of the little screentime they have left to show what they've got!).

Monday, February 19

AI - Top 24 are Chosen (aka the Chair of Doom!)

On the final day in Hollywood, the 40 contestants are gathered in a room. One by one they take the elevator up to where the judges wait, at the other end of the room, facing a single chair where each contestant will find out whether or not they advance to be part of the Top 24 and get to perform live for America's votes.

For each person who advances, we're shown at least one clip of them singing, usually one of their solos during Hollywood week that we haven't already seen.

Sanjaya is up first, and we see him doing "Some Kind of Wonderful." The judges asked how it's been since he advanced while his sister didn't (which was probably just the day before?), and he says "bittersweet."

A string that don't make it: Anna Kearns (tall gal who sang "Respect" in Seattle), who is shocked (apparently she expected to get through because she's unusually tall! um, ok... except not); Bernard Williams (Birmingham); Eric Davis (has shoulder length, curly hair; turns out he has a great backstory, including some prison time, where he became a Christian; & he's now a youth pastor! Oh well...); and Tami Gosnell (Whipping Post gal - has some music here).

Melinda is shown singing "This Is It," and she's very good. She has a bit of a different hairstyle, which looks nice. After giving her the news that she's officially a solo singer, Simon gave her a hug & said he's proud of her!

Brandon Rogers sings "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" and is just ok, but advances. Of course this is based on all his previous performances, not just the ones we're being shown at the moment.

Gina G. sings the same song; a different style, but still not great. She's excited to finally make it through the semifinals.

Jimmy McNeal ("Cupid") and Erick Johnson are sent home.

Haley Scarnato (who?) sings "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." She's good, and advances. The first of what will probably be 'cannon fodder' as they've gotten no previous screen time so they won't get many votes & will disappear the first 2 weeks.

Phil also sings "Have You... Loved a Woman" and is very, very good! Like him a lot.

We're shown some footage of the guys' 1st day in Hollywood on their 'field trip,' previewing The Simpsons Movie! They also got to visit the studio afterward.

Chris Sligh walk into the room and with his soon-to-be-trademark dry humor, deadpans "You're probably wondering why I've called this meeting today..." as he approaches the Chair. ;-) He, too, sings "Have You... Loved a Woman" and is very good. Simon says Chris isn't one of the best singers (?) but that he's popular/well-liked among the other contestants.

Blake is just shown beatboxing during The Quartet of Awesomeness ("How
Deep is Your Love" w/Chris, Rudy & Tom). Most people are wondering if he can even sing....

Tom is the only quartet member not advancing (boo!).

Rudy sings "Georgia on My Mind" and I love him!!!! Hopefully Simon (& America) will come around....

Paul Kim says we'll never see him wear shoes. He also tells us TMI about his 'lucky' underwear.... He sings "How Deep..." and is ok, but embellishes waaaay too much. The judges say their decision was not unanimous.

Jordin does a good rendition of "Some Kind of Wonderful" and advances, though Randy says she was "weaker" in Hollywood than her initial audition.

An Olivia, Tatiana (Birmingham), and Monique are sent home. Tommy is shown talking about the great girl-guy ratio, and specifically mentioning enjoying 'waiting' with Antonella. But we don't find out his verdict yet.

AJ Tabaldo (a new face, #66398) sings "Til You Come Back to Me." This is, apparently, his 5th time auditioning!! His song is good, somewhat R&B.

Stephanie Edwards sings the same and is decent.

Leslie Hunt... sings the same, and is ok. (All 3 advance.)

Nick sings "Have You... Loved a Woman" and is just ok, but makes it through. We see him calling his sister afterward and it's her birthday.

Alaina Alexander (LA auditions) says she always cries. She does "Without You" and is just ok.

Chris R sings something I don't recognize; he's got a good voice, but he has weird, rushed phrasing again. That could get old fast.

Sabrina Sloane (24, another new one) is a black gal w/long curly hair; she sings "Some Kind of Wonderful" and is good!

More no's: Jerome Chism, Joelle James, Matt Buckstein (coming out of the elevator he says "No country this year, I guess"; aww!), and Princess Johnson.

Lakisha sings "Til You Come Back to Me". After her Hollywood solo we see the audience standing & loving her!

(It's 6 pm and there are 7 people left...)

Nicole Tranquillo (Memphis auditions) sings "This Is It." She's good, different. But cannon fodder.

Jared Cotter sings "Cupid." He's a tall, thin black guy - cute! And sings well. Could have potential if he gets some screen time.

Amy Krebs sings "Til You..." & said she loved singing live in Hollywood with background singers!

The last 2 girls are Marisa Rhodes (whose voice I adore) and Antonella, who sings "Til You..." and is shown messing up the words. Surprisingly Antonella advances and Marisa does not. Marisa virtually breaks down in the elevator (angry & upset).

The last 2 guys are Tommy (showed his Seattle audition again) and Sundance (just showed in his H'Wood group performance, which wasn't great). Again we're surprised as Sundance advances while Tommy does not. They both shook the judges hands & Tommy seemed to take it well but notsomuch once he got downstairs.

So, we have our Top 24! Thanks to someone else for typing up this list of stats (alpha by first name):

A.J. Tabaldo, 22, Santa Maria, California
Blake Lewis, 25, Bothell, Washington
Brandon Rogers, 29, Los Angeles
Chris Richardson, 22, Chesapeake, Virginia
Chris Sligh, 28, Greenville, South Carolina
Jared Cotter, 25, West Orange, New Jersey
Jason "Sundance" Head, 28, Porter, Texas
Nicholas Pedro, 25, Taunton, Massachusetts
Philip Stacy, 29, Jacksonville, Florida
Rudy Cardenas, 28, Los Angeles
Paul Kim, 25, Saratoga, California
Sanjaya Malakar, 17, Federal Way, Washington

Alaina Alexander, 24, West Hollywood, California
Amy Krebs, 22, Federal Way, Washington
Antonella Barba, 20, Point Pleasant, New Jersey
Gina Glocksen, 22, Naperville, Illinois
Haley Scarnato, 24, San Antonio, Texas
Jordin Sparks, 17, Glendale, Arizona
Lakisha Jones, 27, Flint, Michigan
Leslie Hunt, 24, Chicago
Melinda Doolittle, 29, Brentwood, Tennessee
Nicole Tranquillo, 20, Philadelphia
Sabrina Sloan, 27, Los Angeles
Stephanie Edwards, 19, Savannah, Georgia

... and we get the usual cute dancing 'intros' of everyone. The girls' background song is one of Katharine McPhee's, interestingly, and the guys' is Bo Bice's cover of "Vehicle"! (hmm, why not something of Taylor's?! Hardly seems like they're even acknowledging him, but they're plugging Kat and Chris... and Bo!? Interesting.)

Tuesday, February 13

AI - Hollywood!

It's time for AI bootcamp! Before we get started we're told that Chris Daughtry's album is the fastest to go Platinum of any AI alum! Congrats, Chris!

Day 1: Women Only
Of the 172 contestants, there are almost twice as many women as men! So Day 1 will be only gals. You know the drill: they line up in groups of 6; each sings a 30-second solo with no judge feedback; the group is given their verdict all at once with some stepping forward & then either the front or back line advances.

First up is Jory Steinberg (one of the 3 girls I really liked from NYC) who sings "I'm Out of Love," and I think she does well. The others in her group don't sound familiar: Geri Guyer, Kelly Caruso, Lisa Morrison, Christen Ham, and Jeromishia Lemar. The whole group is sent packing, and the rest of the crowd is warned that they have to bring it!!

Perla Meneses (Shakira-light from Minneapolis) is shown arriving in the airport and acting like she's already a star. She sings "Hips Don't Lie" and is safe for now.

Rachel Jenkins (Army Reserve wife from Minneapolis) does a poor rendition of "Unbreak My Heart" and is sent home.

Baylie Brown (the 'commercial' 16-year old from Texas) sings "Stronger" again and is very good. She & a couple others in her group advance.

All in different groups that we didn't get to hear, but are being sent home: Ashlyn Carr (strange faces girl), Porcelana (rocker workout-for-a-year girl), and Sara Burgess (lied to parents girl; I liked her!).

Nicole Turner is shown arguing w/her Mom about which song she's going to sing. She ends up picking the one her mom wanted, "Ain't No Way." She was good, but not good enough. Afterward she's all mad at her mom & both end up going back up on stage to argue with the judges that her heart wasn't in it and that's why she sang poorly. Not very classy but got them more screen time. An Ashley in her group was also sent home.

Day 1 recap: 114 girls came in, 58 go out to the next round, including Melinda Doolittle (awesome backup singer from Memphis; one of my favorite ladies), Gina Glockson, Tatiana McConnico (17-year old soul girl from Birmingham), and Jamie Lynn Ward (sob story blond from Birmingham auditions). (Names in bold are those I know for sure are in the top 40....)

Day 2: Men
We don't get to see very many of the guys. Sundance is shown talking about the gender odds being in his favor, and I think he advances.

One group of 6 contains Jarrod Fowler (Navy Idol; my favorite guy from Minneapolis). He sings "You Raise Me Up" and is ok, not great. Matt Sato (16-year old from Minneapolis whose parents couldn't be there) sings something I don't recognize but isn't very good. For some unknown reason, Matt is sent to the next round while Jarrod is sent home! Definitely seems wrong from what we were shown, but we know we aren't shown everything. Also sent home from that group are Michael Lawson (don't think we've seen him before) and a Chris - perhaps Chris Richardson from NY? Hope not as he was really good!

Aaaand, we're done! 58 guys are now 34, including Blake Lewis (spiky-haired beatboxer from Seattle), Nick Pedro (NY, forgot words last year in Hollywood round), Phil Stacy (tall bald guy in Memphis whose wife had a baby that morning), and Sean Michel (Castro long-hair guy also from Memphis auditions).

It's 8 pm and time for groups to form! We're shown some of the drama as a few people have a hard time finding groups to join, and people start arguing over song choice, then later whether they're practiced enough to go to bed yet, etc. Some of the practices & contestant combinations look very promising. I love group round!!

Day 3: Group Performances
Matthew Buckstein (tallest of last year's 'Brokeback Cowboys') is back! However, we're not (yet) shown his performance or whether or not he advances.

We have a very short focus on those who forget their lyrics and are sent packing: Jose Laguna (don't remember him) and Matt Sato (who both forgot the words and sang very badly).

Next is a 4-girl group containing Gina, Perla, Jessica Gordan (new), and Marisa Rhodes (also new; I *love* her voice!). Perla goes home and the rest advance.

Time for the highlight of the episode: a 4-guy group consisting of Chris Sligh (curly-haired guy from Birmingham who wanted to make David Hasselhoff cry; *love*), Rudy Cardenas (tall, baldish Venezuelan last on Day 1 in Seattle, another one of my faves), Blake Lewis, and Tom Lowe (British boy bander whose 1st-round audition wasn't shown in the US but was elsewhere! It's on YouTube & he's good; and British!). They sing "How Deep is Your Love" and not only do they sound great individually, they've put together an awesome performance. After solos they all come to the front of the stage to sing the chorus, harmonizing (with Blake beatboxing), and Tom & Rudy do a bit of dancing (ok, Rudy does a lot!). A quick shot of the judges shows even Simon smiling, and we see the performance through to the end where they 'fade out' repeating "love" a couple of times. Everyone in the audience stands and applauds. I got chills and will definitely be rewatching this a lot! I'll be surprised if all 4 don't make it to the Top 24.

Sundance is in a group w/2 girls, L'Paige and Robyn Troup (both new). We're shown his solo from the previous day which was just ok; his group performance isn't a lot better and he forgot some lyrics. The judges, or at least Paula & Randy, must've really liked him early on because despite this he advances. Simon says they're being too generous.

The last group we see is the 3 Girls of Drama: Baylie with the BFF's from NY, Amanda (blond) and Antonella (very tall & the better singer). In practice Amanda was having a rough time with the words to "This Old Heart of Mine"... so took off to flirt w/some guys. During the performance... she also forgets the words! Just a few, but still. Baylie forgets almost all of them and is, surprisingly (which I say due to her editing, not her talent, though she's decent) sent home. Also surprisingly, both Antonella and Amanda advance.

36 have been cut during the group round, including Sean Michel. :-( And finally...

Day 4: Final Solos and 3 Rooms of Doom
We'll see more of the solos tomorrow. I say "more" though we aren't shown any today. Just the rooms, where 56 will become 40. This is what I could catch:

Room 1 is good (20 people): Chris, Matt B, Tom, Rudy, Gina, Paul Kim? (Asian guy from Best of the Rest), Blake, Melinda, and the curly-haired guy we haven't heard sing but who looks like a cross between Constantine and Sara Gilbert.

Room 2 also good (20): Tami Gosnell (Whipping Post gal from Best of Rest), Sundance, Sanjaya (Indian brother; yay!), Antonella, Brandon Rogers (28-year old backup singer from LA, another one I liked a lot), and maybe Nick?

Room 3 has the 16 who are cut: Shyamali (Indian sister), Amanda (BFF), Brian Miller (repeat from last year), and the tall bald guy with glasses (Phil Stacy??).

Some of my early favorites about whose status I have no clue at the moment: Jordin Sparks (pretty, curly-haired gal from Seattle auditions); Danielle McCullough (18-year old bluesy blond from Memphis); Jenry Bejarano (much older looking 16-year old guy from NY); Chris Richadson; and Akron Watson (thinner cousin from San Antonio; I heard he was disqualified & cut before the Hollywood round started?). Plus Rachel Zevita, not a favorite but interesting 18-year old tie-dyed opera girl from NY.

Whew! Everyone is saying this was way too much crammed into one hour, and I agree! Really, we didn't need to see half the bad, non-entertaining first round stuff they aired, and I think almost everyone would rather have seen a lot more of the Hollywood performances! I suppose we can hope 'Rewind' gets to Season 6 eventually, but I highly doubt it.

Grease (2/11/07)

Tonight is the first elimination show! Should be interesting to see how they do it. We also have guest panelist Andrew Lloyd Webber. All of tonight's songs will be from musicals, and the girls all do A.L.W. songs. We aren't told who chooses the songs, but it becomes obvious throughout the night that some of the contestants are unhappy with their song choices, so it seems they are given songs rather than being allowed to choose themselves.

We start off with a group performance of "Summer Nights," which is fun.

Next everyone lines up on stage and they're going to announce the two lowest vote-receivers in each gender, who will later have a "sing-off" for the panel to determine who goes home. First up are the guys; those safe: Kevin, Derek, Chad, Austin... and Max. Which leaves Jason & Matt in the bottom (not surprisingly). For the ladies we find the safe are Ashley S, Laura, Kathleen, Juliana, and Kate, leaving Ashley A and Allie for the sing-off.

Max got a haircut! He's definitely paying attention to do what they ask of him to improve his chances. He sings "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" and it really shows some weakness in his vocals, which I haven't seen before. It does let him act and he still seems to appeal to the crowd.

Laura sings "Jesus Christ Superstar." The vocal is ok-to-good and she emotes well.

Derek - "Footloose." He gets backup dancers! In his clip he mentions the physical challenge & is shown working out so that he can have the stamina to sing while dancing. It paid off; he's very good! The panel agrees.

Ashley S - "Tell Me On a Sunday" Vocals are great (glory note alert!) and she acts well. Again the panel gives very positive feedback.

Kevin - "Buring Love" Just no. This just isn't the style of music he should be doing.

Juliana - "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" Good vocals and great acting IMO. Love her dress!! Panel says she's too polished & they want to see her 'wild side.'

We get a break for behind-the-scenes footage of the group rehearsing with ALW. What a treat!! And he predicts a "definite career for half a dozen of them." Then a group performance of "The Phantom of the Opera." Derek & Kevin stand out to me vocally (*this* is more what Kevin should be doing!).

Chad sings "My Eyes Adored You," and if we hadn't been told (by the panel and in his clip) that he has the flu I wouldn't have known. He was still very good, and it played up his heartthrob angle (got lots of screams from the crowd).

Kate - "Buenos Aires" Very good.

Austin redeems himself with "Ease On Down the Road"! He has a *very* physical performance (also w/backup dancers) which I think helps him; he has to concentrate on the choreography so he doesn't have time to oversing & overact, except the few moments when he's standing still. I thought he was awesome.

Kathleen - "Memory" Very good. All the girls are tonight!

And we're down to the last 4, so it's time for the sing-off! They'll line up and each sing a line from "Tears On My Pillow," then the panel (i.e. David) will announce which ones they're "saving." Everyone sings well, but it's the wildcards that are sent home (appropriately). We are told that they weren't the actual lowest vote-getters (Jason & Allie were); this is causing a bit of negative buzz in online communities as it was promoted that the viewers (only) would be choosing... though to me it certainly makes sense to give those putting the show on the final say!

Jason sings "That'll Be the Day". He's ok, but not right for the part. He gets more audience screams than I expected.

Allie is last with "I Don't Know How to Love Him," which I *love*!! (I love the song anyway, but she does it well.) They showed her parents in the audience; I don't think they did that for anyone else, which is interesting.

The panelists give their favorites:
David - Austin & Laura
Kathleen - Derek & Kathleen
Jim - Max & Laura
ALW - Derek & Laura

My favorites were Austin and Juliana & Allie (I can't choose!). I think Jason is an easy call for the guy to go but the girl is harder; I'll say Kathleen.

Lastly Matt & Ashley A lead the groups in the sing-out, which is sad but they have to hold it together, which they do fairly well. They both seem to have good attitudes & realize they were fortunate to get this far but are out of their league.

Sunday, February 11

AI - The Best of the Rest

Ok, final first-round episode! Organized around "lessons" we've learned (or not)...

Lesson 1: The Look - clips of people with interesting outfits &/or costumes. Including Christa from Birmingham in red, black & white. She goes home.

Tami Gosnell (28, Denver cab driver, #51637) does not have the Idol 'look,' as she wears no make-up and has a pierced lip. She sings "Whipping Post" and is awesome. I'd love to see her in the Top 24 but won't hold my breath; we have several females with rough, low voices and most appear more 'commercial', which counts more in Hollywood than first round.

Lesson 2: Seek Inspiration - clips of folks inspired by previous contestants.

Paul Kim (25, CA, #74201) takes a somewhat opposite approach; he's here because he *doesn't* want people to think of William Hung when they think of Asian singers! Well, he has the pipes on "If I Ever Fall in Love," a different, breathy voice. We shall see.

Jack Odanovich was inspired by Bo's "In a Dream" and did the same song - I think. It was hard to tell, he was so bad.

Lesson 3: Never Give Up - repeat auditioners! Including cowboy Matthew (Buckstein?) from last year & several other familiar faces (along w/many I don't remember).

Gina Glockson (22, IL but auditioned in Memphis, #53750) is trying out for the 3rd time, and she made it Hollywood last year. She sings "Black Velvet" and is decent but nothing special, except for her built-up 'crush' on Simon.

Which leads to clips of people who are fans of the judges. Edward Sanchez (26, TX) is a huge Paula fan but does not sing well (no surprise).

Now we get clips of jobs contestants left to come audition, including Ace, Chris, and Kelli Pickler. Which leads to Lesson 4: Audition On Your Own.

We get a trio of car hop girls (from whichever town had Olivia Newton-John on the panel). First up is Heather Rennie (20, CA), a blond who does an ok version of "God Bless the Broken Road." Then Ashley Cleland (17) sings "Angel" and is a bit better. Lastly Ebony Jointer (23, #75162), a very pretty black gal, sings "I Believe in You and Me" and is easily the best singer. Heather gets sent packing but the others advance to Hollywood.

The previous winners' first singles are discussed and then we're told of this year's songwriting contest. Followed by a montage of contestants' bad original songs, the strangest of which from Wes in LA (bald guy in a yellow shirt) with "Don't Worry, Don't Hurry." Ok then.

Lesson 5: Shake Your Money Maker - all sorts of dancing clips, including one of Ryan in the waiting room boogying down with one contestant's family & friends.

Not a dancer, but Alex in Memphis sings an Air Supply song (yes I was a huge fan but really, does it matter which one?) poorly. It's a no.

Lesson 6: Clarity - "Name That Song" clips.

And finally we see Lakisha Jones (hyped in commercials; 26, MD, #8292). She has a 3-year old daughter and says she considers her voice a gift. She sings "Think" and is very good. I also like her personality.

The show ends with snippets of "favorite" (or most memorable) moments - including Sherman, which is the only one they show that would qualify as a favorite for me. And then a preview of the 'drama' to come in next week's Hollywood round, which will have a total of 172 contestants. I'm ready; bring it on!

Thursday, February 8

AI San Antonio Auditions

This time we have 11,000 gathered to audition!

First is Brian Kyrish (27, TX) who is not aware that you don't have to yell "Rebel Yell."

Haley Scarnato (24, TX, #50411) sings "I Can't Make You Love Me." She's pretty, with a good voice & good control (and not too embellished). After the guys get her & Paula to stop their fashion discussion, she advances.

Jasmine Holland... is a no.

Baylie Brown (#38625, 16, from small town Krum, TX) sings Faith Hill's "Stronger." She got a *lot* of backstory: we see her parents and their ranch, and are told that she is a city girl at heart. She sings well and Simon proclaims her "very commercial."

We get a montage called "One Contestant, Two Doors." I don't know why they have one door locked in each audition hall, but it does make for some humorous clips.

Next we have male cousins who have been raised together. First up is William Green (25) who sings "Amazing Grace" and is not a singer.

Akron Watson, the younger and thinner cousin (#44185, 23, Dallas), however, is most definitely a singer. He sings "A Change is Gonna Come" and then (after Simon says he's bored), with a little more animation, "Let's Get It On." I like this guy a lot! He gets 3 yesses.

We get small clips of "a few we'd like to forget," and then (unfortunately) a longer one of Sandie Chavez, who sings "Black Velvet" with very strange pronunciation and phrasing. Simon asks if the performance was serious and she starts crying (oops!). After she leaves they see on her bio that she's a music teacher...!

Next up is Ashlyn Carr (#48682, 18, TX). She was beaten up in high school (to the point of getting a concussion) by another girl because she could sing, I think; it didn't really make sense to me but whatever. She sings "Feeling Good" and has a great voice with nice/unique tone, and is beautiful (reminds me a little of Christina Christian) and has a nice personality... but makes really nasty faces when she is singing. Paula especially has a hard time with the facial expressions, and she and Randy say no. Simon says he would've put her through but she leaves. Paula feels bad and they keep talking about her... and finally offer to have her come back in for a 2nd chance. They ask if she understands their concern? She says yes, and tones it down a bit to sing "Inseparable." This time she gets through.

Jacob Tutor (21, TX) is nicknamed "Jake the Snake" and says his family is in "the entertainment business." He does something rock and is not good.

Last up is Jimmy McNeal (#44712, 23, TX) singing "Cupid." He's very good and seems to have a fun personality. Simon says he's "like a little, fun Ruben." He definitely has potential. He also has an excited family outside, including a little girl who isn't quite sure what's going on. Ryan said Jimmy should tell her what happened, so he leans down and says "I'm going to Hollywood!" She replies, "So?" Hee!

If they gave the total number through I missed it, but we saw 5. One more ep. til Hollywood Week, yay!

Sunday, February 4

Rockstar Supernova Concert

I went to the Rockstar Supernova concert in Columbus, Ohio, Friday night (Feb.2). I was expecting the music to be a bit harder rock than I prefer, and some of it was, but I'm still glad I got to go! (My pictures aren't very good, sorry!)

Toby's band Juke Kartel opened. It was a fun, short set, about what you'd expect. They're really good, and I would enjoy a whole concert of just them, definitely. They did some originals, including Throw It All Away which he did on the show. (Check out their myspace, they have a great acoustic version up!) They also did Burning Down the House and Rebel Yell. At one point he leaned down to take the camera of a front row fan and took a picture of himself with her. There was a table in the foyer with a sign saying he'd do autographs after the show.

Next was Dilana - with Magni!!!! Unfortunately he didn't get to do a solo, but his voice complements hers very well (& he played guitar on everything, though she had another guitar player too on most songs). They did Every Breath You Take (good except when she had the crowd sing "Dilana" in the middle, just like she did on the show), Wicked Game (awesome!!), Supersoul (a bit better than on the show) and maybe something else, then ended with Zombie, which I hate. But other than that I enjoyed her set.

Next was Panic Channel, Dave Navarro's band. Dave was shirtless, with a hat. It was very obvious to me that this band was formed around a guitar player! The frontman (lead 'singer' might be an inappropriate term - ok maybe that's a bit harsh ) was not that pleasant to listen to. He did, however, come into the crowd and ended up a few feet in front of me. We were in a side section, in the 2nd row. There's a nice 'ledge' in front of the 1st row where people could sit their drinks, and at least one of the gals in front of us had a beer there. Which he picked up & took a drink from! Then he said & headed back to the stage. Needless to say the girls were quite excited and she held the cup for a while. (Also, it was a nonsmoking venue, and Dave lit a cigarette after the 1st song & smoked it on & off for a while!)

They were incredibly loud, and had blinding strobe lights (and that's not much of an exaggeration, though I know my eyes are extra light-sensitive). This is where we got the earplugs out ("we" being me & my 66-year old mom who offered to go with since I couldn't find anyone else and it's like 10 degrees outside! Moms rock!!). And even then I had to leave after a few songs - nice time for bathroom & pretzel run, then 1 more song & they were done. They did mostly originals plus Suffragette City, and at the end they brought Dilana back out & she sang Highway to Hell w/them to close their set.

There were nice, short breaks for small set changes in between each of the openers, then 20-25 minutes for a complete set change after Panic Channel. Supernova had quite the stage set-up! A whole wall of screen for lights, videos, etc. Tommy faced the side the way his drums were set up. He came out twice to do some special effects & a tad of regular keyboard playing. Jason apparently had some kind of surgery & wasn't there; instead was Johnny Colt from the Black Crowes. Gilby is from Ohio so he had to talk to the home-state crowd; I'm guessing he doesn't normally talk much during their shows.

Let's see... there was a short video intro by Lukas & the stage was pitch black (as it was between several songs, which I thought was strange/unusual), then it rocked for an hour or so. They did several songs from their album, including Dead Parade, Be Yourself (and 5 Other Cliches), Can't Bring Myself to Light This Fuse, It's All Love (my favorite), and of course Headspin (my 2nd fave - and with cool head-spinning graphics!). Covers included a rocked-out Boys of Summer
(appropriate lyrics!), and Bittersweet Symphony, complete with live string quartet!! One of the highlights of the night.

Oh! Lukas did come into the crowd as well. The Panic Channel guy made some contact w/fans, touching their hands & such, but Lukas didn't do any of that, he just kept focused on singing & of course had security guards around him. If I'd known, I would've tried to get a pic, but I was at the ledge in case he came that far & was accessible! Oh well. At least I can say I saw him from about 6 feet away for a moment! He was definitely at his most OTT performance live, whereas I would've preferred to hear more of just vocals, but it was a good, entertaining show.

It was tons different than an Idol show (I've been to every season's tour, 2 mall tours, and several solo tours) - alcohol was sold, hardly anyone there was under 20, and I only saw one sign! There were no restrictions on cameras & they let anyone in the floor sections walk up toward the stage/in the aisles if they wanted. I'm sure there were several people who hadn't seen the tv show & were just fans of Motley Crue, Metallica, &/or Guns 'n Roses, but I think the majority watched the show and recognized each of the 4 contestants. Lukas mentioned several times that the audience was responsible for putting him/them there and thanked us.

Here's a really short clip of Boys of Summer: