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.