Awards Show

For some reason my invites to a raft of B-list celebrities got lost in the mail, so I’ll be handing the awards out myself. Let’s skip the teleprompter jokes and get right to it:

——————————————–

Public Awards

The first bank of awards is based on the results from the public voting, from the semifinals to the Nokia:

Idol: Scotty McCreery

Top Male: Scotty McCreery

Top Female: Lauren Alaina

Survivor award: Haley Reinhart

Flameout “award”: Casey Abrams

Shocker award: Pia Toscano

Those are all self-explanatory, I think. Haley gets the survivor award because she was in the bottom two twice right off the bat, yet “survived” to finish third. Casey was at the top of most power rankings at the beginning of the semis, but needed the save just to make the tour and finished sixth. Pia, I am pretty sure that I don’t need to explain. Hell, I don’t think that I needed to explain the others either, but just in case….

This next bank of awards are purely my opinion, and specifically NOT tied to the voting. They will need more explaining, so I’ll expand as I make the awards up. I’m not kidding. I have three awards in my head so far. I’m going to make the rest up as I go along.

——————————————–

Most valuable contestant: Scotty McCreery

I almost want to say Haley here, because she kept it so interesting on the show itself with her dynamic performances, her underdog journey and the drama surrounding her disconnect with the judges and the producers. She will get her due down the page. Scotty is the main reason why the ratings were so high this season, more than any other contestant. He was the frontrunner all season, and he was personally responsible for more watchers and voters than any other contestant.

Past winners:

Season 7- David Archuleta

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Most controversial contestant: Lauren Alaina

Lauren was discussed like she was naked in a glass room (and everyone had an opinion on what they were looking at) all season long, from the Steven flirting at her audition to the strained vocal chords at the finale. She didn’t even get to fade off there. After the finale twitter blew up with “Are Scotty and Lauren Dating?” Let’s see, what would be a top 10 list of Lauren topics? In no particular order:

1- Its creepy how she flirts with Steven Tyler

2- Is she dating Scotty?

3- Can she sing with sprained vocal chords?

4- Why isn’t she getting criticized, ever?

5- Hey, can we see that clip where she falls down the stairs again?

6- She is too young

7- She doesn’t act young enough

8- She is a cry-baby

9- She doesn’t cry enough, doesn’t she care?

10- Why is Nigel trying so hard to get her into the finale?

Pia’s early ouster would also be a good choice here. I have other places to give Pia her 15 minutes of award show fame.

Season 7- Carly Smithson

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus

Most polarizing contestant- Lauren Alaina

It’s a fine distinction between controversial and polarizing, but I see a difference even though I am picking the same person for both awards. Lauren was the one contestant all season who most divided the country, with an almost 50-50 split among those who loved her, and those who hated her.

Season 7- Jason Castro

Season 8- Danny Gokey

Season 9- Tim Urban

Best looking contestant (male)- Scotty McCreery

This is based on what I hear from my female friends who follow the show, but I don’t think it’s a blow-out. Paul McDonald would get more than one vote from my small pool of readers, and JD wouldn’t get shut out either. Stefano, even Casey have their fans.

Season 7- Jason Castro

Season 8- Kris Allen

Season 9- Casey James

Best looking contestant (female)- Pia Toscano

Probably a no-brainer, but this was a very attractive group of Idol females. I personally might have gone with Kendra Chantelle or Karen Rodriguez, and like with the fellas my small pool of readers would give votes to several different contestants.

Season 7- Brooke White

Season 8- Adam Lambert (just kidding) Kristen McNamara

Season 9- Didi Benami

Best pure voice (male)- James Durbin

I could make a case for a few others, including a couple who didn’t even make the finals, but JD is the obvious choice to me.

Season 7- David Archuleta

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Lee Dewyze

Best pure voice (female)- Pia Toscano

Easy choice. My number two would be “other” Lauren Turner, with Haley a strong third.

Season 7- Carly Smithson

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Best looking and best pure voice, gender undefined as long as they still do those operations in Helsinki- Jacob Lusk

Hell, maybe a sex change would help him stay in tune. Honorable mention to Brett Loewenstern and Ashley Sullivan

Most entertaining also-ran (male)- Carson Higgins

Honorable mention to Jacee Badeaux

Most entertaining also-ran (female)- Ashley Sullivan

I skipped “past award winners” for the last few. I don’t remember enough from the early shows to have a real clue.

——————————————–

Performance Awards:

Most creative- Casey Abrams

Honorable mention to James Durbin and Naima Adedapo.

Season 7- David Cook

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus

Most thrilling peak that didn’t last- Pia Toscano

Season 7- Chekeze Eze

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus

Most consistent- Scotty McCreery

Scotty got off to a blah start, but he was consistently what he needed to be for the last 10 weeks. I would give the second spot to Lauren Alaina.

Season 7- David Archuleta

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Best live performer (male)- James Durbin

JD was inconsistent as a singer, but he was very consistent as a dramatic performer. He pulled out the stops, week after week.

Season 7- David Cook

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Casey James

Best live performer (female)- Haley Reinhart

Only Pia (who was limited to five performances) is in the ballpark for sheer edge of your seat anticipation of what in the hell she was going to do next.

Season 7- Carly Smithson

Season 8- Allison Iraheta

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Flameout award (male)- Robbie Rosen

This isn’t really fair to Robbie, who deserved to be in the final thirteen, but he was my number one from the beginning and he didn’t make the finals. Honorable mention goes to Scott Dangerfield, for whom I gave standout status after his audition. He didn’t even go toHollywood, because he was more invested in his teaching career. I’m not blaming him for quitting, but going from standout to gone is a pretty big flameout.

Season 7- David Hernandez

Season 8- Jorge Nunez

Season 9- Andrew Garcia

Flameout award (female)- Paris Tassin

Her audition made my list of the top 40 videos, but she was wildly out of tune twice and got knocked out on group night. I don’t know what happened to her, honestly. Did she just have that one magical moment, or was there something wrong with her later? We’ll never know.

Season 7- Amanda Overmeyer

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Ashley Rodriguez

Best audition (male)- Casey Abrams

The melodica, the manic “I don’t need no doctor”, and the pied piper persona made this audition the highlight of the early shows for me. Honorable mention to Scotty, Stefano, James and Jacee Badeaux.

Season 7- no clue

Season 8- Danny Gokey

Season 9- Andrew Garcia

Best audition (female)- Paris Tassin

Honorable mention to Lauren Alaina’s wildly over-hyped but very sweet and entertaining audition, Victoria Huggins’ “yo-yo dawg”, Harvard girl Molly DeWolf’s sultry “Sitting on the dock of the bay” and the long lost Kardashian sisters Kenzie Palmer and Melinda Ademi.

Season 7- No idea

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Didi Benami

Best short audition (male)- Paul McDonald

I pretty much stamped him as a top ten contestant based on about ten seconds of “Maggy May”. Honorable mention to Carson Higgins, who’s audition wasn’t even aired until Hollywood week.

Season 7- pass

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Lee Dewyze

Best short audition (female)- Lara Johnston

There weren’t very many, and none of them made the live shows. Lara is Doobie Brothers singer Tom Johnston’s daughter.

Season 7- nope

Season 8- not sure

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Best Hollywood performances (male): Casey Abrams

By a landslide. I also really enjoyed Tim Halperin and Brett Loewenstern, and of course Jacob’s “God Bless the Child”.

Season 7- didn’t watch it, apparently David Hernandez was the one

Season 8- Danny Gokey

Season 9- Andrew Garcia

Best Hollywood performance (female)- Lauren Turner

Idol gave her to us in small doses, but each dose was amazing.

Season 7- didn’t watch, but Carly Smithson got a lot of press

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Lilly Scott slightly over Crystal Bowersox

Best live show single performance (male)- James Durbin

As much as I loved this crop of males, they really underwhelmed by this standard during the live shows. JD had several dynamic stage shows, but his Carole King song was his only really remarkable vocal performance. Casey never recaptured the magic of his Hollywood Week performances. Stefano sang scared, Jacob sang wildly out of tune. Paul was fine, but this isn’t his game. Scotty had a couple of nice moments, which I would give honorable mention (“Gone”, and “You Got a Friend”). Robbie’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” might be my number two, and it didn’t even get him a spot. If this had been season 8, and Adam was going up against all of them by himself, he would rank number one through about number ten before we got to JD. Nobody was terrible, they were all good, but there was a huge lack of amazingness.

Season 7- Chekeze “She’s a woman”

Season 8- Adam Lambert “Satisfaction”

Season 9- Casey James “Jealous Guy”

Best live show single performance (female)- Haley Reinhart

You pick it between “House of the Rising Sun” and “What is and Never Should Be”. The females would rank about one through – well, let’s see:

1- Haley, “House”

2- Haley, “Led Zep”

3- Pia, “All in Love is Fair”

4- Haley, “Benny and the Jets”

5- Pia, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”

6- This could be JD, so I would give the top 5 to the ladies this season.

Season 7- Carly Smithson “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Season 8- Allison Iraheta “Someone to watch over me”

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox “Up to the Mountain”

Best judging moment- J-Lo turning to Randy in Hollywood, and telling him “we almost cut her yesterday!!” during Haley’s third round performance.

Worst judging moment- J-Lo, every other time that she opened her mouth when Haley was on the stage.

No, this was the worst judging moment- Randy, during the final four, calling the race a tie between everyone but Haley, right before she had to sing.

Ok, this was absolutely THE WORST judging moment- The entire judging panel, during the final nine performance night, calling every singer great other than taking several moments to single Pia out for not moving well on stage after Gwen Stefani dressed her in a gunnysack. 24 hours later Idol had a serious problem.

I don’t know what award I would give it, but the largest judging mistake was NOT giving James, Lauren, Casey, Jacob and Scotty any constructive criticism or usable tips for their singing.

——————————————–

THE BIG THREE AWARDS

Enough preamble; it’s time to give out my three major awards for Idol’s tenth season: The ALLIE, the CHEKEZE, and the ADAM. I didn’t do this last year (or the year before) so I’ll do some catching up for the lost years.

I’ll talk about them as if they are important, mainstream awards; but I’m just making them up. Some day, if they catch on, you heard (read) it here first.

——————————————–

The Allie

– The Allie award goes to the contestant the most embodies the spirit of Allison Iraheta; a contestant that took the worst that the judges and the voters could throw at her and, instead of getting scared and timid, got stronger and tougher as the year went on. By the time Allie got bounced even the judges that kept trying to get rid of her were standing and cheering her, and desperately trying to get a piece of her as she left in triumph. The “Allie” winner should be the one contestant that ended up the furthest ahead of where they started, and the one contestant that will be most missed by the judges, the other contestants, and the watching public. A true “Allie” will inspire outrage from the internet, which represent the wishes of the watchers more than the voting totals that are slanted by the speed dialers. The “Allie” will get a disproportionately large share of the finale compared to his or her finish on the show, and a much longer interview with Mike Slezak than what would be expected from his or her finish. By these criteria, here are the “Allie” award winners from season 7 to season 9:

Season 7- Brooke White. She finished fifth, but got a long Slezak interview and a full duet with Graham Nash on “Teach Your Children”

Season 8- Um, Allie? Allie got the second longest interview (behind Adam) and a duet with Cyndie Lauper on “Time After Time”

Season 9- Siobhan- She didn’t get the big finale song, but she got to sing solo on four different group performances and her Slezak interview was the longest one that he’s done to date, over 40 minutes. Even Adam, who had the second longest, got just over 20 minutes.

Ok, drum roll…..

ALLIE AWARD-

Haley Reinhart

The voters, all 382 of them, voted for Haley unanimously. Ok, it was just me, but this one was as easy as any award that I’ve given out. Haley got the longest Slezak interview of the season and she made the largest move forward of any Idol contestant ever from the early rounds to when she got bounced. The judges were out to lunch this year, but the audience and the contestants were all on her side at the end. Shin DIG!!!!

——————————————–

The Chekeze

– The Chekeze award is almost a prestigious as the “Allie”, and the statue is the same size (statue?). The Chekeze award is for the most electrifying live show performance of the season:

Season 7- Chekeze, “She’s a Woman”

Season 8- Adam Lambert- “Satisfaction”

I listen to a lot of Idol performances on Youtube, and I am not sure that there has ever been a more dominating performance than this one. Adam announced himself that night as the guy that would, eventually, prove to be the most dynamic performer in the history of the show.

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus- “Paint it Black”

If she can nail one song in her post-Idol career like she nailed this one, she will be a superstar.

Drum roll…….

CHEKEZE AWARD

Pia Toscano, “All in Love is Fair”

This was a year of consistently high level performances, but fewer huge peaks. Frankly, the true Chekeze moment of the season was probably Casey’s “Georgia”, but it doesn’t qualify because it was before the live shows. I would probably put Haley and Lauren’s “Gunpowder and Lead”, Casey and Haley’s “Moanin’” and Haley’s swan song performance of “Benny and the Jets” ahead of Pia, but none of them were under the pressure of a performance night show. Pia shouldn’t have to apologize. She was spectacular, and it was this performance that made it so hard on us when we had to deal with her early ouster. I’m pretending that it wasn’t the outfit that she wore on elimination night that caused all the angst. Just go with it.

Plus it would be strange to give all three awards to Haley, who didn’t even make the finale.

——————————————–

The Adam

– The Adam award is for the “moment-maker” of the season; the contestant that delivered the most “wow” performances.

Season 7- David Cook

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Drum roll…..

ADAM AWARD

Haley Reinhart

It’s no coincidence that the finale performance show was down in the ratings. This was the third consecutive year that the consensus “best performer” didn’t win. Idol needs to fix their voting system, or it will keep happening.

Where Are They Now?

These are in order of finish, for the most part, from when I started listening (season 7 top 12) to the end of season 9. I didn’t take too much time on the Idols who are in the mainstream (David Cook, Adam Lambert, etc.) and I played favorites. This explains why I wrote more about Siobhan than the rest of the contestants combined.

——————————————–

Season 7:

David Cook– Cookie is touring like a madman, and doing very well. He set a raft of billboard chart records with his debut album and a rash of I-tunes recordings just after he was crowned Idol in 2008. He’s about to release his second album.

David Archuleta– After some early success (his first solo album debuted at number 2 on the billboard album charts and sold 750,000 copies, and he’s had nearly 2 million I-tunes downloads) he is currently unsigned, and regrouping. He won’t turn 21 until the end of this year.

Syesha Mercado– Toured with “Dreamgirls” for over a year, performing the lead role. She recently completed filming of her movie debut, in an independent film called “Dreams” (not related to “Dreamgirls”). No album out so far, but she is reporting that she is working on one.

Jason Castro– Touring below the radar, with his brother Michael as his opening act. His debut album made it to 18 on the billboard charts, and his follow-up EP made the top 100 despite virtually no label promotion. He is gradually morphing into a Christian music artist now, working spiritual songs into the mix with his more eclectic songs. He married his college sweetheart, and they are expecting their first child this fall. I’ve heard a couple of his songs, and they are pretty good. If you like Jason, you should hunt them up on youtube.

Brooke White– Working like crazy in several fields of the entertainment industry. She has sold roughly 100,000 albums total from her 2 releases (one prior to Idol), starred in a Fox TV movie, and done some hosting work including on the TV guide network. She has one single that made it to number 47 on the billboard charts.

Carly Smithson- Currently touring with her Goth-Rock band “We are the Fallen”; opening for “Saving Abel”. They are a really good band, very dramatic and intense, but so far they haven’t gotten much mainstream attention.

Christy Lee Cook– Her debut album reached number 8 on the billboard country charts and her first single reached number 28 despite the fact that, as a seventh place finisher, she got virtually no promotional push from the Idol machine. She is currently a signed artist on Broken Bow records, but she is mostly busy with hosting duties on the Outdoor Channel, with 2 shows. She wrote Lauren Alaina’s first single, “Like My Mother Does”, and that might get her a push back into theNashville recording world. She could have been just another talented kid that got the back of Simon’s hand, so I’m really impressed by what she has been doing.

Michael Johns– Sang all but one of the ten vocal tracks on Shaun White’s “Don’t Look Down” documentary in 2009; Reached 12 on theUS indy album chart, 97 on the Billboard album chart with his debut album. Reached 22 on the adult contemporary chart with his single, “Heart on my Sleeve”.

Ramiele Malubay– Nothing recent, though she was said to be Syesha Mercado’s best friend in a recent article. She expressed a desire, a couple of years ago, to move to the Phillipines to pursue her career. She is part Filipino, and she was born inSaudi Arabia.

Chekeze Eze- He did some hosting on TV Guide channel, toured with other Idol alums, and seems to be involved in every post-Idol get-together. He got into some trouble with the law using a stolen credit card last summer, but I think the case was eventually dropped and it was deemed to be a misunderstanding.

Amanda Overmeyer– One of my favorite non-contenders, Amanda is still writing, performing, and riding her Harley. Here is her Website.

David Hernandez– The third David of season 7 (for chrissakes, Idol, why couldn’t you handle 2 Laurens this year?) has been very busy. He tours constantly, and he seems willing to perform for anyone, at any time. He tours frequently with former Idol alums Gina Glocksen and Alexis Grace, and he is working with the Black Eyed Peas’ Printz Board on his first single, coming soon.

Season 8:

Kris Allen– His debut album reached 18 on the billboard charts and has sold 328,000 copies to date. His single “Live Like You Were Dying” was certified platinum, selling over 1.6 million copies. Kris is touring like crazy and working like a fiend, but his post-Idol career is losing traction. His last two singles failed to chart after his first 2 both made it into the top 20. He is, as are a couple of other Idol alums, heavily involved in charity work.

Adam Lambert– His debut album reached 3 on the billboard charts and has sold 817,000 copies to date. His song “Whaddya Want from Me” reached 10 on the billboard charts, and “If I had You” reached 30. He sold out his entire “Glam Nation” tour last summer, and a DVD release from the tour hit number one on the Billboard video charts. He is close to releasing his second album, which is reported to be more of a rock album than the techno mess that his first one was. TMZ is still sorting through his garbage, so he is on another level compared to most Idol alums.

Danny Gokey– His debut album reached 3 on the country charts and 4 on the billboard charts, selling 204,000 copies to date. He opened for Sugerland last year, and he is currently opening for Taylor Swift. He has a pair of top 40 singles so far. He is just getting started.

Allison Iraheta– Her debut album has sold 104,000 copies to date and reached 35 on the billboard charts. None of her singles charted, and she was dumped by her label. She is still signed with 19, though, and working on her second album. She opened for Adam Lambert on his sold out tour last summer. Allie said, in a recent interview, that her next album “Won’t be a lotta pop crap like the last one. I’m writing the songs this time, and I’m writing stuff that matters to ME.” There were a couple of good songs on her first album (Scars is amazing), but she needs to channel her Tina Turner and blow out some angsty blues stuff. I’m hopeful. Hell, I’m excited.

Matt Giraud– What does Matt have that Adam doesn’t have? A number one single on the billboard charts! Matt recorded a duet with Anna Wilson (You Don’t Know Me) that hit number one on the jazz charts. I found some video of them working the song out, and it’s totally awesomely cool. Matt has a couple of albums out from before he was on Idol but he hasn’t yet released anything post-Idol because he’s been so busy supporting Anna Wilson, but I expect something very cool to come out eventually. The guy oozes music.

Anoop Desai– ‘Noop Doggie has been busy, below the radar. He writes like crazy, and he is working with seemingly half of the Atlanta Mafia to get his songs released. He’s been touring, collaborating, and generally working his butt off since he finished the Idol Tour in late 2009. His website is easy to navigate, and his songs are terrific. I have no clue if he’s going to ever get any attention from the national music industry, but his stuff is really cool. He reminds me of the oldPhiladelphia street sound; lots of sweet and thick harmonies behind a sweet high baritone lead voice.

Lil Rounds– Nothing has gone right for Lil since her audition. She was signed to do an album, but it got pushed back and she eventually “left a bad contract” and is now planning to release an album independently. I hate to say it because I liked Lil, but someone is giving her bad advice and ruining any chance that she has at a career. She is very long odds to ever be seen again.

Scotty MacIntyre- Scotty released 5 albums of widely varying styles before he was on Idol (the first one when he was 11), and he has continued to produce music on a consistent schedule since he left the show, and he tours non-stop. While he might never reach mainstream success, he is doing just fine at the level below. He didn’t need us nearly as much as we needed him.

Megan Joy– I have no clue what’s going on with her, which pleases me no end. She has been posting songs on her facebook page for a couple of years, and she keeps threatening to release an album. She played a bit part in a Farrelly Brothers movie, and Stevie Nicks is reportedly shilling for her to play her in a biopic. She keeps getting new tattoos, and she is engaged to some obscure musician. We don’t see what’s going on, because it’s all below the radar, but this girl isn’t living a boring life.

Michael Sarver– He actually got signed, and his debut album reached 50 on the country charts. He hasn’t charted any singles, but he’s out there slogging. Good luck to him.

Alexis Grace– I’ve seen her referenced a good dozen times on other Wikipedia pages, so I was stunned that she doesn’t have her own wiki page. She is touring like crazy with David Hernandez and Gina Glocksen, as far as I know. She co-hosted an Idoloonies episode with Mike Slezak this season, and they didn’t talk about her career at all. I’m clueless.

Jorge Nunez, Jasmine Murray– Nothing cooking, as far as I can find. I’m sure that they are doing something. Jazzie is in school, but I don’t know about Jorge.

Season 9:

Lee Dewyze– Lee has struggled mightily compared to past Idol winners. His debut album sold just 141,000 copies to date and his only chart single was his Idol single, “Beautiful Day”, which debuted at 24 and then disappeared. He is young and still working on it, but he has been hurt by the lack of buzz surrounding his Idol title.

Crystal Bowersox– Her debut album did a bit better than Lee’s, reaching the 2 spot on the US Rock charts and selling 197,000 albums to date. She scored a nationally televised commercial campaign with BB King, selling a diabetes related product. She made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry in February.

Casey James– He signed with Sony Nashville, and his album will be out later this year. He opened for Sugarland this spring, and I think that he toured with another big name act as well. I’ve heard a couple of his originals; they are signature Casey and very cool.

Michael Lynche- Big Mike has been busier than I thought he would be musically, recording several tracks towards an album. It’s good stuff, though he hasn’t been signed to a contract yet. He is also working on a reality show, the hook being his family.

Aaron Kelly– Aaron is inNashville, working on an album. He is signed to a major talent agency, but as yet unsigned to a label. I expect that he will be signed by the end of the year. He is working with some big-wigs.

Siobhan Magnus– I’ve been keeping close tabs on Sha-Von. She had a couple of label offers, but she decided to strike out on her own and keep her stylistic options open. In her words: “I think that I need to de-Idol my image a little bit, so that I can be myself. I was offered a chance to do a bubble-gum teenybopper album, but I didn’t think that it would be a good idea”. Yeah, not a good idea considering that she is about as “pop” as Annie Lennox. Hell, Annie Lennox is way more pop than Siobhan on her most normal day.

She shaved one side of her head again, and she spent most of the winter touring with her pre-Idol band Lunar Valve. They are maybe best described as “Post- New Wave Punk Funk and Industrial Soul with a little bit of Karen Carpenter thrown in to mess with everyone’s heads”. Let’s just say that they are very musical, kind of loud, occasionally wild, exceedingly cool, and really weird. The screams are primal, and Sha-Von’s outfits are insane. Think Led Zeppelin’s craziest songs sung by Courtney Love’s sober but insane little sister, with a saxaphone. It ain’t pop. I honestly don’t know what the hell it is, but it ain’t pop.

The more normal face of Siobhan has her first single out, and she is working on a full album inNashville(definitely NOT country) with some formidable producers. She just performed her first full concert last weekend that included some of her original songs as a solo artist. Lunar Valve opened the show (with Siobhan on lead vocals), performing a pair of original songs along with “White Rabbit”. Siobhan took the middle part with a backup band, playing several of her Idol songs as well as her first three original solo songs. They closed with her Uncle’s band (a really good band, not some bar band, a 13 piece band with a full chorus) where Siobhan sang a couple of leads but she mostly was part of the chorus. I have listened to a few of the songs. The reviews of the show have been very positive, but mostly from local pundits. The recordings are not slick, but Sha-Von sounded terrific. She has grown as a singer in leaps and bounds since she left the show.

Can she make it big? The odds are that she won’t, but she is barely 21 years old and she can sing her butt off. She is working incredibly hard, but right now she is divided in her intentions. The recording business isn’t kind to those who try to do everything. My guess is that she will have to take her talents to Broadway before she gets another 15 minutes of fame unless she can convince a major artist (Adam, maybe?) to let her open for them.

Tim Urban– Tim released an EP (decent stuff), but he is mostly getting hosting gigs. His future is probably more likely to be as a cable TV host, with the chance to build on that. People really like him, so he’ll get his chances. I don’t envision any top 40 songs, but you never know. He’s not much of a live singer, but he records very well.

Katie Stevens– Ask me in five years. Katie is finishing up High School, and she is enrolled in a high profile performing arts college. I am pretty sure that we will hear from her again, but it’s going to be awhile.

Andrew Garcia– Touring and playing whenever and wherever he is asked at this point, and he just released an EP. He is best friends with Lee Dewyze, so I expect that he will open for Lee sometime soon.

Didi Benami– Last year’s Pia but with Simon’s back of the hand instead of internet outrage, Didi got knocked out too soon to get serious label attention. She is slogging forward, playing whenever and wherever she can, and she has some Youtube videos of original songs out there. Her voice is very radio friendly and she can write, so I believe that we will get some positive news in the next year.

Paige Miles– She released an EP, and she starred in a 60’s musical called “Beehive” in her hometown. She is living in LA, and hanging with Didi and several other former Idols while they all chase their dreams. She looks terrific by the way, very glamorous compared to her Idol look. I thought that she might just go home and go back to teaching, but she is going after it. Good luck to her. She has a terrific voice, and her Idol run ended early because of vocal illness, not vocal inability. She has a shot.

Lacey Brown– She has her EP in the tank, but it hasn’t been released yet. Lacey has been touring like crazy since she left the show, and working out ofNashville. Her EP is, as she describes it, a blend of bluegrass and the Beatles. She wrote all of it herself. I heard just a short snippet, and my take is that she sounds like a very young Stevie Nicks singing very old Marianne Faithful songs. I want to hear the rest.

Alex Lambert– He scored a gig on an internet reality show, and amid rumors of homelessness after the show ended (complete bull, he was just on the road touring) Alex has been very busy and very productive. This is a link to a video of his original “I Didn’t Know”. It’s a terrific song, and well worth taking the time to listen to. Keep in mind that he’s still too young to get into a bar.

Lilly Scott– She has been touring with her band Varlet since she got bounced, and she is barely 21 herself despite looking like she is older.

Taking it to the Nokia

I’ll list all 24 in bullet format:

The Gentlemen:

– Clint Jun Gamboa- He held back most of his song but ended well; didn’t get top 5 or a wild card opportunity. He would have done better in almost any other season.

– Jovany Barreto- Sang to an empty room due to a production glitch, and got a wild card chance out of a sense of fairness. He wasn’t picked.

– Jordan Dorsey- Sang fairly badly, picked the wrong song, and was tossed. He would have had to be the best of the night to have a chance anyway, with the bad press that he got inHollywood.

– Tim Halperin- Sang the wrong song and got tossed with no wild card shot. He deserved better, but it was a tough crowd this season.

– Brett Loewenstern- Sloppy but entertaining, he surprisingly didn’t make the top 5 men or get a wild card opportunity. It was a sudden end for one of the most entertaining contestants all season.

– James Durbin- Sang Judas Priest and moved on easily.

– Robbie Rosen- Randy called him out for his intonation which cost him top 5 status, and then he sang perfectly in the wild card round but was dumped anyway. He was a victim of demographics, I think, and he deserved to be in the final 13.

– Scotty McReery- He was still pretty amateurish at this point, but he sailed on to the next round with the highest vote total of anyone.

– Stefano Langone- He missed a note or two and didn’t get the vote, but he was terrific in the wild card round and moved on.

– Paul McDonald- He reprised “Maggy May” and moved on easily.

– Jacob Lusk- Showed promise of things to come, and moved on easily.

– Casey Abrams- Over the top, but still plenty to move on. He was pretty sick this week from his bowel issues.

The Ladies:

– Tatynisa Wilson- Bad, and gone.

– Naima Adedapo- Sang well but didn’t get enough votes. She was terrific in the wild card round and moved on by the skin of her teeth.

– Kendra Chantelle- Sang well but missed some late notes and didn’t get the vote. She sang so well in the wild card round that Slezak is STILL complaining about the fact that she didn’t get a spot.

– Rachel Zevita- Terrible song choice and even worse low notes got her tossed right away.

– Karen Rodriguez- Got the vote and moved on to the finals, but probably by a tiny amount. She wasn’t all that brilliant, and she was listed last by dialidol.com.

– Lauren Turner- Sang great and got tossed without even a wild card opportunity. Bad luck there, kiddo, having the wrong first name this year. Just be grateful that Nigel didn’t actually have you killed.

– Ashthon Jones- A pair of pedestrian performances got her into the finals anyway. Not to be cynical but it’s obvious that she was thrown a demographic bone, in a year when Idol was going to ride a heavily white crop of contestants to the end. She really didn’t deserve the spot by merit.

– Julie Zorilla- Frosting Girl was horrible and got tossed. I was never a fan, but she was better than this.

– Haley Reinhart- Pulled out all the tricks and got enough votes to make the finals.

– Thia Megia- Sang sweetly and got plenty of votes to move on.

– Lauren Alaina- Sang well and moved on easily.

– Pia Toscano- Shocked just about everyone with a dynamic performance that featured several blow us away high notes, and moved on and to the top of the power rankings.

——————————————–

Final Thirteen to the Tour

The contestants:

Ashthon– Gone right off the bat. She was an outlier anyway, not as good as the rest of the contestants though she tried mightily.

Karen– Gone in the second week of the finals. She was one of the weaker contestants anyway, so she went to her Spanish demographic and got a couple of showcases in before she gracefully exited. She was really good in her finale performances.

The rest of the finalists made the tour, since Casey got the save in round of 11 week.

——————————————–

Top Eleven to Top Seven

The contestants:

Naima- Naima was very underrated as a live show contestant. She delivered terrific performances in three of her four chances, only falling short with her “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. She brought new things to the show with her African dancing and her original rap lyrics, as well as her reggae performance of “I’m Still Standing”. The judges were asleep at the switch here and didn’t point these things out, so she got bounced too early to gain traction.

Thia- She went out with Naima, which was about right. She made the tour, and she will be an asset there; not needing to do anything but what she does best: sing the crap out of ballads.

Pia– Several internet gadflies jumped on her back, saying that they knew all along that she was going to get dumped early, but that’s ridiculous. Pia was well situated to compete all the way to the end, and she hadn’t even scratched the surface of what she was capable of.

Paul- Paul got about the right spot for him, finishing eighth. He’s going to be a popular indy artist for years, and I expect that we’ll see him from time to time on Idol down the road as a guest.

Stefano- He never really got traction with the voters, and as a result he sang fairly scared the entire way. He’s a songwriter and a true musician as well as a guy with a terrific voice, so he’ll get some opportunities.

——————————————–

Top Six to The Nokia

The contestants:

Casey- He’s a better singer than Carson Higgins, but he probably wasn’t one of the hundred best pure singers in the competition. He was the best all around artist, though, so his sixth place finish was probably about right. I have no clue whatsoever where we’ll see him again, or what he’ll be doing. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him acting, or combining music and comedy. He has some options, and knowing that he’s not going to be singing with the Three Tenors might focus him some. He has even more tricks up his sleeve than we saw on the show.

Jacob– The poster boy for the simple truth that singing in tune is more important than raw tools. Jacob had the best vocal skill-set this year, even over Pia and James. His persona wasn’t popular, though, and Idol didn’t do him any favors. I’ve seen enough of him outside the show to know that he is sort of an idiot about public relations, and mostly a raw kid with big dreams and an inflated sense of self. He’s going to get spanked, and not in a good way, until he learns some humility and how to project himself to the public. Oh, and he needs to sing in tune, or the cameras will go away for good.

James– JD did a lot of growing on the show, and a lot of good things. He brought the rocker persona out and gave us a lot of high energy performances to counter all the ballads. He was always emotionally honest, maybe to a fault. He had a couple of moments, particularly his “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” which highlighted just how good his voice sounds when he sings a great melody. Idol didn’t help him much. They mostly rode him like a plow horse, taking the money from his entertaining performances and never teaching him to move to another level; a level that could have made him more of a contender. KD didn’t grow an inch as a singer; he might have actually taken a step back, since he lost the ability to use his high range effectively at all by the end. He got too caught up in the theater, and forgot that this is a singing competition. He’ll be fine, I think, and get an album out by early next year. I’ll certainly listen to it. He still has a world class set of pipes, and I find myself really liking him and rooting for him.

Haley– I’ve said so much about Haley already that I’ll just be repeating myself if I say anything more. There are over a dozen contestants I’ll follow closely from this season’s crop. Haley tops the list. She gets the “Allie” and the “Sha-Von” awards (to come in the next article) and she will have another award named after her, for the contestant who improves the most during the season.

Lauren– I’ve been on her back a lot. She makes mistakes that some of the other contestants didn’t make, but wasn’t ever judged for them. As a result, like JD and a couple of others, she didn’t progress like a kid with this much talent would be expected to. That said, once I listened back to her performances I changed my mind about her. She was visually hard to watch at times, which led me to dun her for her singing as well. Listening back, even though she struggled with her movement her vocals were really impressive, in almost every case. She was virtually never out of tune, and when she was anywhere near her comfort zone her voice rang out impressively. She has an amazing tone, and she deserves some credit for being more than a karaoke singer. For one thing, she won’t be old enough to sing in a bar for five years. When she sang in the duets on Thursdays, she was almost always amazing. The only time she wasn’t was when they matched her up with Scotty, who doesn’t have nearly the vocal power that Lauren does. Her duet with Haley, “Gunpowder and Lead”; was one of the best performances in Idol history, let alone this season.

Idol shilled for her endlessly all year, and manipulated to get her to the finale, which was just a dumb thing to do, but we all get carried away when we are scared. Idol must have felt that they needed her in the finale. I have no problems with hammering Nigel and the judges for this, but I stop short of hammering Lauren for it. She was just competing, and doing the best that a young, inexperienced kid can do. She held it together, and never had the fall apart moment that several readers predicted. I am high on her future, but I caution her to make sure that she keeps herself centered and develops her life skills to go with her musical skills.

Scotty– It’s not easy to win Idol from the lead like Scotty did. I don’t believe that anyone had ever won after being the leading vote-getter as early as the semifinals. Scotty led every single week. I was against him competing in the finals, because I knew that he couldn’t be judged by Idol standards. His voice isn’t all that strong, and he can’t sing anything other his own style. His weaknesses were worked around, though, and Idol paved a nice little road to the Nokia for their little Dorothy.

If that bothers you, I understand and at some level I agree. Idol would have been amazing this year, and much more dramatic, without Scotty. The final four might well have been JD, Pia, Haley and Lauren. That’s an amazing final four, isn’t it? I would love to hear any of those four singing three songs a night, for the win. Haley might have gotten some better songs to sing, and had several more moments. Pia, had she survived her ouster, might have grown into a total monster, a moment machine. Lauren, with the producers pushing her to get better instead of just pushing her to make it deep, might have grown into a much better performer herself. JD, surrounded by singers instead of stylists, might have spent more time on his vocals instead of his stage props.

That said, Scotty earned his confetti shower. He got progressively better as the season went on, and he developed some performance chops that will serve him well when he gets out on his own tour. I am sure that he is ready right now to headline his own shows, and he’s going to sell one hell of a lot of albums (ok, nobody sells albums anymore, but you get the gist). He already has three number ones to his credit, a week after the show ended.

——————————————–

As I talked about in my Scotty comments, Idol would have been more dramatic had Scotty simply been given a recording contract and sent toNashville. His dominance took most of the drama away, and rendered the finale performance show an afterthought. I looked up the ratings and they bore this out. The finale performance night was down a bunch from last year, while the finale was way up, coming in with an overall rating of just under 30 million. Nearly 40 million (!!!!) viewers were watching when Scotty was crowned, the highest in several years.

Road to the live stage

This is all culled from the previous season 10 recaps, with a few grammer and spelling errors corrected.

Jan 19;

If you stuck through to the end last year, I salute you. If you gave up early, I don’t blame you but I hope that you’ll give the show another shot. 2011 will be the year of the kinder, gentler judges and a renewal of the original mission of the show: Find great singers, and let them sing great.

There have been a lot of changes, both in front of and behind the camera. The age limit was lowered to fifteen years old, and the old semi-final system was scrapped. They are still working out the details for the new format. I’ll keep you posted. The new people:

Jennifer Lopez- Judge. J-Lo finds it hard to say no, and it’s been reported on several sites that the judges gave 320 Golden Tickets away, almost twice the number from last year. It’s obvious already that Jen is going to be the new Paula, though probably a much more sober Paula. It’s too early to talk about her in any deeper way as a judge yet. I am optimistic, though. She seems to be working towards being positive even when she says no, and giving creative criticism. It wouldn’t work if all of them do this, but it’s not a bad thing for one of them to be the nice one.

Steven Tyler– Judge. He is way too easy so far, but I can see him getting comfortable and being blunt, if not overtly mean.

Nigel Lythgoe- Executive Producer. More, much more on him later. He is the driving force this year, and they will live or die on his decisions.

Ray Chew– Bandleader. There has been a lot of talk about being more creative and versatile with the arrangements. We’ll see.

Jimmy Iovine– Mentor? You will hear more about him down the road.

Randy Jackson is back, and he moved to the other side of the judging table. He seems to be trying to be more of a decision maker, but it’s too soon to tell what that will mean in the long run.

Simon is gone, of course. Ellen quit, saying that she is too busy to do the show. I’m hoping that she is still going to support the show on her own talk show like she did last year, but that won’t be known for awhile yet. Kara’s contract wasn’t renewed, but I’ve heard talk that she will have some kind of minor role down the road. I care less about the judges than most people do, but I understand that they are an important dynamic. I’ll give my two cents on them as we go along. I’ll likely have a lot to say about Lythgoe, who is pretty much the Czar of the show now, but not until much later in the process,

The contestants:

Tiffany Rios, 21– She can sing, but she is more likely to make it to the cast of “JerseyShore” than the final twelve. I’ll find a spot for her in the power rankings, but let’s not get carried away.

Robbie Rosen, 16– He has an emotional, thrilling voice and the killer nice guy vibe. He’s interesting, very likeable, and memorable. I’m guessing that he’ll be around for awhile. I’m not sure that he’s a slam dunk for the finals, at least not yet, though he seems to be getting the package treatment. His intonation worries me. I want to hear him more before I start calling him a contender. He could be great, or he could lose the ability to sing in tune. There were some shaky notes in between the big ones. Not majorly shaky, but juuust a little bit disconcerting.

Ashley Sullivan, 25– I had to rewind and get her name and age when I saw her waving a golden ticket. I had already moved on, assuming that she was toast when she started channeling her inner Liza Minnelli. She can sing some, but she is total fodder for the next round.

I don’t want to make it sound like I hate her. I don’t. She reminds me of a drag queen more than anything else, but she actually IS a girl; a skinny, dirty-blonde haired girl with a rubbery face, expressive eyes and so much nervous energy that I got nervous watching her perform. I don’t think that she has a chance in hell on a show like this, but there is something there that I like. It was like Kelly Ripa started doing a Robin Williams impersonation, and not one from last week. I’m talking late 1970’s, back when he was so full of cocaine that he almost drowned in his own sweat. It was amazingly weird, and strangely cool.

Victoria Huggins, 16– This kid isn’t going to the finals, but she could be cast as Larry the Cable Guy’s daughter in his next movie. Did you see that dress? Rip off the sleeves, and she’s already in costume. The accent is perfect. Let’s roll tape, fellers….

Last comment on day 1:

I was approved as a writer for a real website this season, americanidolfanwiki.com. I’m still working on how to use it, and I’ll let you know when I get something published. I am also working on getting my reviews posted on Facebook. I’ll know more by the end of the weekend, and I’ll keep you posted.

(added later): This turned out to be a fairly big nothing. I have more readers than that site does. I’m not kidding; they had 3 readers the first week and 2 of them were me and the site coordinator. They don’t have it formatted for user friendly word processing, so posting was a huge pain. I did post a couple of power rankings on there, just copies of the ones that I sent you. The Facebook thing, I might do that next year. I never really looked at it this year mostly because I struggle to post anything at all to Facebook.

——————————————–

Jan 23;

The singers:

Brett Loewenstern, 16– He’s a little weird, but he can sing and he isn’t THAT weird, just effeminate. I’d like to hear him do some Maroon Five. Contender? I dunno, but he’s not fodder. I didn’t hear any evidence of a big high range, which surprised me. He has a high, soft speaking voice. The whole thing made me think of Carrot Top imitating Michael Jackson, but without the steroid enhanced biceps.

Jacee Badeaux, 15– It will be interesting to hear what he sounds the next time we see him, if we see him again. His voice might have changed by then. He hasn’t even hit puberty yet. Who’s next? The E-Trade baby? He sings well, but I will be pretty shocked if he makes it past the first couple of days in Hollywood. He’ll probably be a bull frog bass by then.

Paris Tassin, 23– Her audition wrung tears from J-Lo, and they didn’t have a thing to do with her kid’s health problems. Seriously, what a weird presentation of a back-story. It almost seemed like a parody of the “Idol Audition Back-story.” I wasn’t moved by it so much as I was confused. So the kid lived, right? She’s ok? Hearing aids? Ok, that sucks, but she’s ok? She’s healthy? Happy? Um, why is everyone crying?

Anyway, forget the backstory. This girl can sing her butt off, and she is Standout number one for season ten. Her voice reminds me of Carrie Underwood’s (she was singing a Carrie song, so she might have been subconsciously imitating her a bit), but honestly she is way ahead of where Carrie was at this point in the Idol process. She sings with emotion, and she hit every note right on the sweet spot. She might be this season’s Didi Benami, with the heart string tugging back-story (that wasn’t necessary in either case) and some questions about her emotional stability.

——————————————–

Jan 27;

The singers:

Scotty McCreery, 16– He sang a Josh Turner song first, and he sounded just like Turner with his distinctive, low baritone voice. His Travis Tritt song sounded like – well, Josh Turner singing Travis Tritt. I don’t know how long a voice like his can last on Idol, but he’s very good. He should have a future in Country music. He looks a lot like Evan Longoria, the ballplayer. If this was the Nashville Star competition I would call him a standout.

Naima Adedapo, 25– She has a strong voice but I’m not sold on her intonation, and the crying isn’t a good sign either. She has an exotic look, with African features and the blue eyes, but she could use a makeover to really bring that out. I don’t expect her to contend, but she has a puncher’s chance if she can stay in tune and stay composed.

Thia Megia, 15– They are really trotting out the 15 year olds…. I would love her as a contender if she was 23 instead of 15, and I could assume that she has some breadth to her skills to go with the height of her audition. I just can’t be sure that, at 15, this is a true representation. She has a terrific voice, and very good intonation. I’ll call her a wild card for now. A lot of these kids will get swallowed up, but a few of them are going to go deep. She has a mature bearing, remarkably mature compared to Emma Henry from earlier in the show. She has a shot.

Aside– Obviously the Civil War re-enactor that sang “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” wasn’t Idol material, but I really liked that Steven took the time to say that he really liked the song. Someone told me earlier today that she felt thatTyler wouldn’t be good at judging musical styles that he wasn’t familiar with, and I strongly disagreed with her. This isn’t the first time that Steven has come out of the Idol Box to express some appreciation for something that isn’t fit for a competition like this. I don’t know about you guys, but I love this kind of thing. It’s the opposite of a guy like Simon, who gave the back of his hand to anyone that didn’t fit into his tight little box. It might mean giving a ticket to someone that has no shot, but why not? Only one is going to win anyway, right? Let’s have the largest pool possible, so we don’t miss out on some diamond in the rough.

Haley Reinhart, 18– Nice job, kiddo. It’s very cool to see a kid who was rejected go home, work hard, come back, pull it off and get her ticket. I wouldn’t completely dismiss her chances, though I don’t see her as a contender. It’s the kids like this, who spend the time in the woodshed to get better, that humanize the Idol process.

Aside– I see a parallel to the NCAA Basketball tournament. While the business of the NCAA tourney is to determine the winner, the public at large cares every bit as much about the Cinderella stories, the small schools that make the Sweet Sixteen or even win a single game. Idol does the same thing. They spend the bulk of the season working down from a small number to the finale, and identify a winner to (hopefully) go on to stardom as a recording artist. This is their mission. However, the first several weeks of the show will feature dozens of singers that have no chance to win. These kids are celebrated in their home towns, and sometimes even nationally, for being the best little Cinderellas that they can be. This is as important to the show as the eventual winner, if you ask me. Haley is just one more example of this. My favorite one ever was that kick girl last year, Vanessa Wolfe. She got more satisfaction out of just making it past the audition than maybe even some of the semifinalists did. She’ll be telling her kids (and her grandkids in twenty years) about her trip toHollywood for the rest of her life.

I can close my eyes and imagine fifty year old Vanessa, anytime that I get depressed about stuff like the economy, or expensive health care: “Fetch Gammy a beer, babydoll, and sit down right on that log, and let Gammy tell you about her trip toHOLLYWOOD!!! Dammit Earl, don’t let those ribs burn, I just turned them….”

Idol needs to develop stars to keep its cache in the business, but anyone that watches the show year in and year out knows that Idol itself tries mightily to be a fraternal organization. They can’t care about everyone, but they are loyal to their finalists, bringing them back to showcase their latest projects. With Simon gone, this element of the show might come out even stronger. These people are lovers, not fighters, and they all root for each contestant to be great, even while they have to weed them out. Nobody is happier when a contestant sings well than the judges, and the producers. Their business is finding money making artists, but their passion is to find great singers, and let them sing great.

Scott Dangerfield, 22– John Sebastion lives. I love this kid. I have been going back and forth on him for a half hour, hemming and hawing, because he hit a couple of sour notes. Yaknow, I say screw it. He has everything that an Idol needs to go deep. He is standout number two. He isn’t perfect in his intonation, which worries me, but that’s ALL that worries me. This kid has a huge voice, and the kind of understated yet oversized personality that will grow and grow. He’s part Elvis, and part Springsteen. He could be nothing, but if he isn’t nothing he could very well be everything. I have a reeeeeallllly good feeling about him..

Chris Medina, 26– He started out slowly, and I was wondering why they would show us such a horribly tragic story if he was just some guy that was going to get tossed in the first week ofHollywood. He got better, though, and I can see some potential with him. His voice isn’t unique, but he has an easy manner and a comfortable way of spinning a song. His back-story is going to get him a TON of sympathy, so Idol wouldn’t show it if he wasn’t going to make it at least fairly deep.

——————————————–

Jan 28;

Adrienne Beasley, 22– She has a strong voice, and for some reason her mouth and mannerisms reminded me of Alanis Morrisette. My guess is that she won’t go deep. She isn’t experienced enough, and her voice isn’t so great that she can overcome that.

Paul McDonald, 25– He has a very cool voice, and a very cool style. I’m not going to call him a contender yet. His melody choices were really off, other than the key notes. I’ll call him a deeeeeep sleeper for now.

Lauren Alaina, 15– The producers really pimped her, so I assume that we are going to see a lot of her. Her voice is terrific, and she has a lot of vocal tricks for a kid so young. She has no clue where to breathe, but Danny Gokey was just as clueless and he finished third. Contender? I’ll go along with the judges, but I am not nearly as sold as they are.

——————————————–

Feb 2;

Hollie Cavanagh, 17– She got the pass with her second song, but she is almost certainly done the next time that she opens her mouth. She has lots of voice, but no composure. Give her a few years, and we’ll see.

John Wayne Schultz, 23- He has a strong voice with some range and a rich, pleasing tone. He sings free and easy, and he is extremely likeable and genuine. He has a real shot. His largest downside is that he’s a niche singer on a show that hasn’t historically been kind to extreme country styled singers. He’ll have to show some versatility, in all likelihood, to make it past the semifinals. He’ll be in the mix for awhile at least.

Casey Abrams, 19– Go to Youtube and type in his name. NOW!!!

I’m just kidding…. Seriously though, you should take the time and look this kid up. I enjoyed his manic audition, but to get the full story on him you have to see his other videos. He plays every instrument, and he sings every harmony part. He can put it all together in his head and then play every instrumental part, sing every harmony separately, and then put it all together in a video or on a CD. He’ll go far, as they say, either in front of the microphone or behind it.

Can he win Idol? I dunno. He is about as far from a diva as you can get. He seems more like the perfect second fiddle. His voice is cool, but he isn’t purely a singer. He is a studio rat. As a singer, he is another tenor type, but with some ability to growl, scream and scratch. He can make the live shows if things break right for him, and it’s not impossible that a kid that is this creative could make a serious push. My expectation is that he will die just short of the finals, or shortly into the finals. He is maybe 50-50 to make the top ten, and get on tour. If he makes it, he will be a huge asset.

——————————————–

Feb 9;

Stefano Langone, 21– He kept trending sharp, which bothers me more with him than it would for most singers, because it’s the only thing that’s keeping me from calling him a standout and putting up near the top of the power rankings this weekend. I’ll just say that, if he stays in tune when he has some accompaniment, he is short odds for the live shows. He has everything else. He has a fantastic, charismatic, powerful voice and the quiet confidence that I love. Even with the sharp notes, he’ll be way up there in the power rankings. I’m anxious, nervous, hopeful and excited to hear him again.

Clint Jun Gamboa, 26– Interesting kid. I hear his voice as one that would fit well in a group more than by itself. It’s pure and sweet, and his intonation was impressive for all the runs that he was doing. He doesn’t have the power that too many others will have, so he’ll have to bring some creativity to stand out. He has a chance, but lets be real. He is a finesse singer, not a power singer, so he’ll have to be almost perfect.

Julie Zorrilla, 20– Wow. So much frosting, but where was the cake?

The terrific back-story, the trills, the eyes, the drama, the emotion, the poise, the love from the judges. Julie pulled off every single hook that makes an Idol audition stand out. Well, other than having range, good intonation, natural rhythm, vocal power, maybe an interesting voice… what did I miss? She isn’t really a singer, is she? I got more of an actress vibe, or a girl that was singing for the talent portion of a beauty contest vibe from her. She isn’t terrible, but I didn’t hear anything that would make me want to hear her sing again. I’d rather talk to her parents. What a story they could tell….

Don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed with this kid. Her story is interesting, and she seems like a good kid with a bright future. It just doesn’t include singing for a living, at least not yet. She might have a chance, just because she got the star treatment from the producers. I don’t see it, but I don’t really have a problem with it. What the hell, I like frosting.

James Durbin, 21– He has a crazy strong, wild horse of a voice; the closest thing to Adam Lambert’s voice that I’ve heard since Adam himself. That is a huge, huge talent in and of itself. I would even go so far as to say that his voice is as good as Adam’s, and possibly even better since he showed some bluesy bends that Adam never had. He can, and will blowHollywood away unless something outside of his talent gets in the way.

The bad news: Adam Lambert spent 16 years in musical theater, honing his craft and making himself into the monster that he was on Idol in Season 8. JD (he’s going to be around for awhile, so I’m dubbing him JD from now on) isn’t stable, and he has some serious issues. I’m not talking about the ones that he talked about. I’m talking about the fact that he is 20, with a family, and he isn’t working. I know that we are in a bad economy, but that worries me.

Overall, a voice like JD’s doesn’t come along very often. He is a contender, and there is no obvious reason why he can’t win it all. He is standout number three. A lot of things will have to go right for him, and he is going to have to show that he has some stuffing to go with his talent.

——————————————–

Feb 18 (Hollywood Round 3)

Haley Reinhart, 18– Haley was the kid fromMilwaukee that was rejected a couple of years ago, did her time in the woodshed, and came back to get her Golden Ticket this year. This is the first time that I’ve seen her since her audition. They showed short snippets of her wailing on FHS and struggling mightily on Group Night just before she sang tonight. She is sang “God Bless the Child”, the old Blood, Sweat and Tears song.

She blew the doors off, pulling out every trick, and this was probably about the best audition that she could possibly pull off. I seriously doubt that she’s one of the fifty best singers left, but this audition might have put her through. I’d give her an A for effort and creativity, but a lower grade for the technical parts of her performance. I give her big ups for coming up big under the pressure, especially in light of her struggles earlier in the week. I don’t think that she’s a contender for the live shows, but she might have earned herself a punchers’ chance tonight.

Ashton Jones, 24– She was part of that terrific group performance last night, the one with Ashley Sullivan. She sang “And I’m Telling You I’m not Going”, an Idol staple that came from the musical “Dreamgirls”, later performed in the movie by Jennifer Hudson and famously lampooned by Normund Gentle in season 8.

She reminds me of Syesha Mercado for her looks as well as her voice and style. Syesha was the third place finisher from season 7. She might not have as strong a voice as Syesha, who had a howitzer, and her intonation was a little bit shaky (so was Syesha’s). I think that it’s too early to call her a major contender, but we are down to less than a hundred contestants left. She’s done damned well already. I expect that she’ll make it through today.

Thia Megia, 15– Thia has a terrific tone, and she really sings the crap out of ballads. She just has it, that feel for where to bend the melody, and where to let her voice spread or pull back. She sang an up-tempo song on FHS, and I wasn’t as impressed. Her youth betrayed her when she had to deal with complicated rhythms, and her accent got really heavy. The accent doesn’t need to be a detriment, but it’s an indication that she isn’t able to fully command herself at tempo. She should be fine for today, but she isn’t going to be able to get away with singing ballads all the way to the finals.

Carson Huggins, 22– This kid was in the LA audition show, but they didn’t air his audition. He sang “My Prerogative”. He can’t sing all that well, but (I mean BUT) this kid has total star quality. He is the light bulb.America is the moth. I don’t know if the judges will give him a chance, but I really hope that they do. This kid will be ratings gold, and he will make this season fun and memorable. Idol needs him, with so much on the line in a year without Simon’s insult comedy to draw the less imaginative viewers. Whether they realize it will tell us a lot about Nigel Lithgoe, who can walk across the stage and tell the judges to keep him and just put in earplugs if it hurts. He would be a HUGE asset to the Idol Tour this summer. I mean, common. He doesn’t have to win; he just has to make the top ten, right? Right? I love this kid. Please keep him, ok?

Julie Zorilla, 20– Frosting Girl brought out a piano and sang “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles. There is still something that bugs me about her, not that she isn’t good but that she isn’t great, or something to that effect. She is too heavy on the downbeats, and her phrasing doesn’t flow like a professional singer. That said, her intonation was spot on and she has command of her limited arsenal. With the pimping of the producers she might make the live shows, but I don’t envision her going too far past that. If it wasn’t for the pimping, I would wonder why she is even still here. She isn’t an idiot, and she is very poised, so that must be what they are seeing. She is a relatively mediocre singer who seems, as I see it, to be forcing her notes out and play-acting more than emoting.

Colton Dixon, 19– I heard him last night during the Group Night show, and I didn’t think that he was any good at all. I was surprised that they let him through. He sang Chris Daughtry’s “What about Now?” tonight. He played the piano decently, though he seemed to be shaking some, and his voice sounded really good. He isn’t unique, really, but he is a lot better than I thought that he was last night. He wouldn’t be the worst singer that they let through to the live shows by a long ways.

Brett Loewenstern, 16– We all know Brett by now. He sang “The Story” by Brandi Carlile. He was free and easy, and just smoooooth. Again, I would have loved to have heard the entire performance. I had to look up what in the hell he was singing (I recognized the melody, sort of, but I had no clue who sang it), and I found it. I just got myself another favorite song, and maybe another favorite singer. Brandi Carlile fever. Catch it. Oh, and tell her to fix her name. That spelling looks like a typographical error. The song isn’t a secret to everyone else, so I am prepared for several emails asking me about what rock I’ve been under the last three years. I’ll take the fifth, and just say that now I know.

Robbie Rosen, 16– I’ve seen Robbie playing the piano on several youtube videos, and he’s very comfortable playing and singing. He sang another Sara Bareilles song, “Gravity” (no, I’d never heard of it, thanks again interweb. What would I do without you?). He got to show off some when they gave him an extra ten seconds or so past the other singers in this particular montage. He’s number one in my power rankings, so you know that I am high on the kid. I’m loving him more and more as he goes on. His intonation, which was a worry early on, has gotten massively better. He pulled out an extra gear tonight that will be important down the road, when they are all struggling to stand out. My only worry about him is his tendency to overdo it. That might bite him in the butt on a song at tempo, when he can’t make everyone wait while he fixes a mistake on one of his massive departures from the melody.

Casey Abrams, 19– Amazing. Casey brought in a standup bass, which is just one of probably dozens of instruments that he can play. He sang “Georgia on my Mind”. This kid is amazing, just amazing. I have no words. It was just….. amazing.

Lauren Alaina, 15– We all know Lauren. She is going the full route on a song that she sang with Steven at her audition, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith (duh).

Will somebody, anybody, PLEASE pull this kid aside and teach her where to breathe during a song? Lauren has such presence on stage, and so much command of her melodic departures, that it stands out like a sore thumb when she breathes in the wrong places. All the stage presence in the world won’t help if she sounds like this on the live shows, going up against the other alligators that are in the competition. She has a legitimate shot to go very deep, but she can’t keep taking breaths during her crescendos. It’s like she stops to go to the bathroom right before the big blowoff:

“Do you feel lucky, (excuse me, got to tip the cabbie……. ok I’m back. Whew, deep breath, get back in character…..) punk? Go ahead, make my….. (oops, forgot to text my mom that I’ll be a few minutes late to dinner, gimme a sec….. Dam, these keys are small….. Ok, got it. Deeep breath, and, go!!!) …………….day.

It isn’t rocket science, and she is going to be surrounded by qualified coaches. Let’s hope that she gets that worked out. In every other way she is terrific, and she is almost a lock to make the live shows.

Jacob Lusk, 23– Anyone remember Harry Belafonte? Jacob is Harry Belafonte, with Adam Lambert’s range. I am just floored. This kid is going to be on the tour for sure, and he might catch fire and go very, very deep. Oh, he sang “God Bless the Child”. You might have noticed that several songs have been repeated. It’s a myth that the kids get to choose whatever they want to sing. They get a fairly short list of choices, and only a few of those choices are good vehicles to show off their talents.

Aside: I expected to see several “Adam” types last year, and was disappointed that there weren’t any at all. I can’t blame it on Simon, but I sure as hell can note that, with Simon gone, suddenly we have Adam types coming out of our ears. Last year sucked, mostly because of the choices of the judges. Only Siobhan gave us any hope of something amazing, and Simon did everything he could to shut her up, too. They kept dumping and dumping, until we were forced to choose between Tim Urban and Michael Lynch, or several people that hid behind their guitars.

I listen now, and I am forced to wonder if any of the final nine (after Didi got tossed) other thanCrystaland Siobhan would have even made it to the semis this year. Would even Lee Dewyze stand out in this crowd? Casey James? Aaron Kelly? The talent pool is much, much deeper this season because they are focused on getting the best singers, instead of bowing to the Simonmonster and letting him cast the show. Last year it was all about Simon. This year, it’s all about the singers. These kinds of talents were sure as hell in the mix last year, and Idol (mostly Simon, who was running the show like the stubborn autocrat that he is) dumped them. This year, they are being allowed to compete. As far as I am concerned, we all win. I dunno, maybe I just hate Simon. All I can say is that I am sooooo happy. Ding Dong, the witch is dead.

John Wayne Shultz, 23– He’s hard to forget; with his signature name, his romantic occupation (cowboy) and his free, easy George Strait/Brad Paisley style, but this is the first time that we’ve really heard him since his audition. He sang Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”. He was sweet, and he is charismatic, but he wasn’t perfect like he probably needs to be to make it to the semis. Frankly, there are aLOT of singers that can sing as well as he sang tonight. I’ve heard him sing better, and the judges have too. He might be ok.

Ashley Sullivan, 25– We all know this girl by now, don’t we? She almost quit on Group Night. She cries so much that the local weather station reports her as precipitation. She has a weirdly rubbery face that makes her look older than her true age, and she weighs about 80 pounds. She looks more like an actor in your local theater’s production of “The Crying Game” than she looks like a singer. Her best comparison could be a transvestite version of Carol Burnett, if Carol was an anorexic heroin addict that was on the list for a sex change until someone pointed out to her that she was already a woman. In other words, she is interesting. She sang “Everything”, by Michael Buble.

Oh my God, she messed up the words. I had this strange hope that, after she had dodged so MANY bullets so far, she would be terrific tonight and stay in. I have to say that I enjoyed her all the way, even when I was continually shocked that they didn’t bounce her and tell her to go straight to the nearest therapist. Underneath all of the drama, and all of the insanity, the kid has a terrific voice.

She is every bit as real as Hick Chick Vanessa, who seems to be my go-to girl for the kids that are just not prepared for the reality that being a professional singer means, well… being professional. It always warms me to see anyone show their innards, I guess. Ashley will move on, and who knows? Somebody might see her as someone to take under their wing, and use her in musicals or something. She would probably make for a terrific reality show. I hate those shows, but she would get paid. Why not? She might be seriously flawed (hell, she might be seriously insane), but she is a human being that got to express herself on a pretty big stage. We win; Idol wins, and hopefully Ashley will find a way to win, too.

Stephano Langone, 21– Accident boy, with the scars on his arms and legs. He covered his scars up, and blew up “Sir Duke”. I had him way up in the power rankings already, and he ain’t dropping after tonight. Realistically, though, he isn’t comparable to Casey and Robbie.

——————————————–

Feb 24 (Beatles night/final 24 in and out for a few);

Hollie Cavanagh, 17– She didn’t make it. Final 40, though. She did damned good to make it this far. She is so young that she has plenty of time to find some finesse to go with what is a very powerful voice. She came so far from her audition, when she was a 17 year old child that lost her composure and cried like a baby, to tonight. She handled the gut wrenching rejection, after getting soooo close to the live shows, with class and dignity. The kid grew up a ton in a very short time.

I didn’t add it, but I commented on her in the Hollywood rounds as well. Hollie is, at this point in her life, a pure belter with a ton of power but very little polish. We might see her again. As I said, she grew up a ton on the show. Haley, anyone?

Alex Ryan, 17– Didn’t make it. How absurd is it, for a kid to make it all the way to the edge of the live shows and not have a single note that he sang make the air?

As far as I could figure, Alex was the only final 40 contender that didn’t have a single note on air. That’s actually a decent job by the producers, I think. It’s not easy to edit this show.

Haley Reinhart, 18– She made it in!!!! Dread Pirate Roberts kept saying: “Goodnight Wesley, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning”. Well, Haley survived each “morning” by being perfect through several performances, and now she’s in the final 24. I’m done assuming that she will be killed in the morning. She doesn’t have the biggest voice, but she has some very cool tricks that she worked out in the woodshed. It’s funny. She looks like a beauty queen, but she acts more like a Sha-Von, who would get tossed in the first round of a beauty pageant but lives and dies for performing. Did she skip cheerleader tryouts to learn how to do that Louis Armstrong growl that she does? Beauty ages. Skills don’t. Haley gets it.

I kept saying that she had a weak voice, didn’t I? The Sha-Von comparison was more apt than even I would have believed at the time.

Deandre Brackensick, 15– Didn’t make it. He was probably the last one out, thirteenth best male against a very tough male crowd. He just turned 16, so he should take a shot at making it back. He’s as good as Jason Castro, maybe even better.

Paul McDonald, 25– Made it, duh. The voters should have no problem voting him into the top 10, and then the competition starts. He looks like Kenny Loggins, phrases like Dave Matthews, and sounds like Rod Stewart on a good day. He’s missing the singular talents what made all of them special, but the combination might take him deep. He’s going to get some sort of recording contract out of this now. If he makes it to the top 3 or so, it will maybe get him better backing, but he’s not going to win. My guess is about eighth, but he won’t beat himself. He could make it to the top three.

Ashton Jones, 24– She’s in. She is a tweener, I think. She is in between several styles and several vocal strengths. She can’t belt, but she has a stronger voice than the finesse types like Dianna Ross, who she looks like. Her overall skill set isn’t enough to make her a lock for the top ten, but she has a shot. She will leave it all on the stage either way. I’m skeptical, because she can’t sing as well as Paige Miles from last year if Paige is on her game.

Chris Medina, 26– Didn’t make it. He sang really well at his final audition, but while he was good, he just wasn’t good enough for this year’s insanely high level of competition. He is coming out of the competition with so much dignity that I would not be the least bit surprised if someone that was watching gave him a shot to record, and have a career. I’ll root for him.

————————————————————————————————————

The rest of the final 24 will get their due in my next article, “Road to the Nokia”, probably be the end of next weekend. Thanks for reading.

Finale “live” bloggin’

8:00- Ryan’s opening salvo

8:04- The final 13 sing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”. Everyone looks terrific, and they kept it together really well. This is a really good song, with a hook (19, pay attention) and a commercial melody. Scotty and Lauren came to the front at the end of the song and did a Rowan and Martin routine, jokingly fighting over the spotlight. Ok, it’s a Hope/Crosby thing; hell, maybe it’s an Adam/Eve thing. I don’t go that far back.

8:11- James with Judas Priest, singing “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law“. Who dressed JD? He looks like one of the Village People. Metal fans (Bobbi?) I’m sure loved it, and I enjoyed it. Rob Halford is one of the best metal vocalists ever, if not THE best. JD could learn some things from him for sure. I noticed how Halford really bites his words off, and gives some extra power to his notes. JD doesn’t have that trick yet. He’ll learn, if he takes the time in the woodshed.

8:15- Some fun at Randy’s expense (in it to WIN IT!!!! About 15 times…)

8:17- Jacob with Kirk Franklin, singing “I Smile” (I think, I’ve never heard it so I did some googling and that title came up). Gladys Knight (!!!!!) walked on the stage unannounced and joined in early in the song.Franklin looks like a black James Carville, but he makes it work. I liked the song, though I’ll never go looking for it. Not my cup-a tea, but it was nice, fun and uplifting.

8:26- Casey next, singing the opening verse of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”, sitting on a couch. At the end of the verse he kicked the couch away to reveal Jack Black hiding behind it. Jack called Casey “Stacey”, but whatever. I kept thinking that we were watching Will Ferrell and John Belushi doing a takeoff on the “Blues Brothers”, singing in a gay bar instead of behind the chicken wire. They even brought out some girls riding bicycles and shaking their moneymakers. That would have been epic, these 2 maniacs trying to sing “Bicycle Race”. It was fun, manic and strangely poetic. Casey could be a Jack Black kind of guy, couldn’t he?

8:29- Ryan has to vamp some while they get set up for the next song.

8:30- The Idol Ladies singing Beyonce. Wow, you can really see the difference when these kids get some time to rehearse, can’t you? This performance was really ambitious, and they were all over the place like one of those old Carol Burnett finale blow-offs (I know, I’m old). It was tight, dynamic, and the girls all did themselves proud. I might have to add this to my top 40 performances when I do my recap. Karen, in particular, sounded amazing. I’m happy for her, getting her “moment” since she didn’t make the tour. Haley continues to show herself as a terrific harmony singer and a performer who makes everyone around her better. If I had one bummer about the performance it would be that Naima didn’t get a chance to shine anywhere. I assume she’ll get her moment later in the show.

8:40- Steven’s turn in the barrel. It was a fun reminder that, while he wasn’t much of a judge, he was a ton of fun on the show.

8:41- Haley with Tony Bennett. Tony is amazing, still out here kicking butt at 85 years old. Haley took a few lines of her own (beautifully done), while mostly working off of Tony and letting him drive the train. The biggest thing that I noticed, not for the first time, is how expressive Haley’s face is. She can really project her emotions and her feelings with subtle movements in her eyes, her huge smile and her body language as well. Don’t be shocked if she does some acting, just saying.

8:44- J-Lo’s turn. The angle was how beautiful she is, and how much men love her, but I preferred to think that what comes out most with her is her genuineness, her sweetness, and her natural and honest sense of humor. I haven’t been much of a fan of her judging choices, but I’ve always been a fan of her love for the contestants. She gets performers and performing, and she honestly loves the kids who are laying it on the line for her. She couldn’t be tough and fair because she’s too much of a softy, and she took having to give rejections much too hard, so I don’t know if she’s coming back next year. The other two judges are signed for next year, but Jen purposely took just a one year contract.

8:46- The Idol Ladies again, with Lil’ John and the 2 remaining members of TLC. I was kinda hoping that they would let Naima do Left Eye’s rap on “Chasing Waterfalls”, but they just sang the song.

8:50- Scotty with Tim McGraw, singing “Live like You Were Dying”. I could go on for pages about Tim McGraw; his Dad was a big part of my childhood and Tim himself was a big part of my own music career in the early to mid 1990’s. I wonder if he still sings Indian Outlaw? I doubt it. That song was, to his career, like Stallone doing that porno film before he made it big, or maybe a better comp would be Kevin Bacon getting stabbed in the neck in a horror movie and getting stomped to death in “Animal House”. I saw him (Tim McGraw, not Kevin Bacon) in concert twice early on, and he was obviously already sick of the song. I’ll talk about Scotty plenty later on, so I’ll just say that he sang really well as usual, and Tim took some time to have a conversation with him as they left the stage. Tim and his wife Faith Hill areNashville royalty.Nashville knows Scotty is coming.

8:57- Joe Repka, who you might remember as the likable but not particularly talented singer/radio DJ from the auditions, introduced a blooper reel. I agreed with that Mom who kept telling them to get away from her kid. She said “she’s 15, leave her alone”. She must have allowed them to show the footage tonight, though. I’m pretty sure that they have to clear that kind of thing with the parents of a minor.

9:00- Marc Anthony. I don’t know much about him other than that he’s married to J-Lo. From this performance, I am guessing he’s the new Dezi Arnez. That makes J-Lo Lucille Ball.

I was asking myself during the performance; “Is that Sheila E doing percussion on the side?” It was!!!! For those who don’t know (or remember, it was a long time ago), she was with Prince during his glory years and had a couple of minor hits on her own. She was famous for kicking her cymbal instead of hitting it with a stick. I was looking for her to do it, but I don’t think she did.

9:05- Some discussion about the most shocking elimination. It started out between JD and Casey. I assume that they’ll eventually get to Pia here, but the back and forth between the “rocker” and the “maniac” is funny. Yes, they did. Pia walked up on them arguing with a sash that said “most shocking” and asked them what they were arguing about. They both said, “Nothing”. Pia walked away after saying, “That’s what I thought”. Well done.

9:07- Casey ABRAMS isn’t getting much respect tonight, is he? Jack Black called him “Stacey”, and now Ryan just called him “Casey James”. Priceless. Oh, next up are the Idol Guys doing something or the other…..

Oh, that’s right. Tom Jones is on the show tonight. Stefano was fairly amazing on the first song (You don’t have to be Rich), really good. Paul was, well – Paul on the second one, and apparently JD drew the short straw and had to sing “What’s New Pussycat”. That short video is going to haunt him for the next fifteen years while he tries to get some street cred in the metal circles. Scotty got “Green Green Grass of Home (of course)”. Jacob got some luck with “Love me Tonight” (I think), a song that fits his voice. Casey got “Delilah” and smoked it; that was funny, silly and cool. Casey then introduced Tom Jones himself.

He sang “It’s Not Unusual”; sue me, I had to look. Either he stills uses the sock or he has a hernia. Lets all hope it’s a sock, for his health. He is so tanned from decades in Vegas tanning booths that he is starting to look like Red Foxx, or actually the actor that played Grady on “Sanford and Son”. They kept showing Jack Black dancing, but I don’t think he knew they were doing it. He wasn’t mugging for the camera like he usually does. He was just grooving and enjoying the performance.

9:17- Ford Video. I know, just move on, but I really liked how Lauren and Scotty’s voices meshed this time. I’m always a sentimental slob about each season’s cadre of contestants, so I always enjoy seeing them together doing just about anything.

The finalists brought their teachers (one principle, one chorus teacher who is probably young enough to audition for Idol herself) to the finale. In a cool twist, the teachers each got the keys to their own new Ford Focus. Of course the finalists got cars too, and they get to choose from any car Ford makes. My guess is that Scotty will get the biggest truck that they have, and Lauren the top of the line Mustang. Is that sexist? I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Lauren got the truck and Scotty the Mustang. I can’t help remembering that Lauren was too young to drive when she auditioned. Does she even have a Drivers’ License? Scotty ain’t all that older, so this is a huge deal to them. Hell, in our state (Washington) minors can’t even own a car. Both of them are still minors.

9:22- Lady Gaga. I can’t really get into her music, I’m too old and too small town for her to aim her music at me, but how good is she? She didn’t lip sync, despite some ridiculous demands on her attention, other than a short passage in the middle of the song. She got ahead of the beat a little when she was playing the keyboard, and she lost some of the dynamics of the dancing part when she was singing late, so she was clearly live.

She just gets it, and while I don’t personally get a charge out of her artistry I have a world of respect for this very talented and driven performer. She gets a lot of crap for being a Madonna clone, and some of it is probably deserved, but Madonna never committed to the show like Gaga does. Madonna experiments. Lady Gaga dives in. Madonna licks the edge of an envelope. Lady Gaga eats a box of envelopes and spits it out in our face. Madonna is a sexy woman who likes to act weird for effect. Lady Gaga is a weird woman who likes to act sexy for effect. The art world (music is art too) is lucky to have both of them, and so are we. Now if we can just talk Gaga into being the mentor next season…..

9:31- Lauren singing with Carrie Underwood. Lauren is a fantastic harmony singer and she nailed it on the first chorus. Carrie is a proud harmony singer herself, so she returned the favor on the second chorus. This is the kind of finale performing that I love the most; 2 singers harmonizing and really singing a song together. I loved it. A couple of notes:

– Why do they keep putting Lauren in those huge heels? She is really tall for a female already, 5-9 or 5-10 at least. Ok, I know why, but does Lauren know why? If so, I’m fine with it. She’s in the real world now, not at junior prom.

– Lauren’s voice is shot. She might have to miss the tour, or at least be very careful about what she sings, if she is going to be able to handle her own tour next summer. This could be a serious issue. The kid is stuffed full of steroids now, but what happens later? I would hate to think that she blew out her voice on Idol, and couldn’t take advantage of the Idol push to get her career going. I like to compare Idol contestants to baseball pitchers. Lauren is, right now, a “pitcher” with a serious arm problem. I’ll delve deeper into that in my recap.

– They showed Ryan out in the crowd and Jennifer Love Hewitt was right behind him, cheering and clapping for Lauren and Carrie. She didn’t look at the camera once; she was just enjoying the show.

– Carrie is really skinny again. This worries me. She developed a really bad eating disorder after Idol and got really skinny, but I thought she had gotten over it. She looked terrific last summer.

9:34- Some fun with the ages of the finalists. Casey just turned 20, so it’s not like he’s an old man. Naima does a pretty good old woman act.

9:36- Beyonce again. Great song, great performance, but why? I want to hear the Idols. This is Idol’s night, not Beyonce’s night. Let’s hear Naima, or Stefano, or Paul, or Thia, or Haley again, or James again. Common guys; don’t shill for the stars. Let the contestants carry the night.

9:45- Oops, my DVR skipped past this.

9:54- Steven singing “Dream On” the Reader’s Digest condensed version. That’s ok. The old man can still hit the scream, can’t he? I love it.

10:01- Results. Scotty is the season Ten American Idol. Sorry for the lack of buildup, but there wasn’t much drama, was there? Lauren was dry eyed and quick to congratulate Scotty, and the rest of the show was mostly a bunch of hugging and more hugging. What I’ll take from the last few minutes of the show is that:

– Scotty is a worthy American Idol. The kid had it won three months ago, but to his enormous credit he never took anything for granted. He worked his butt off to get better every single week, and the end result is that we have an Idol that we can all be very proud of.

– This was, in the end, one of the deepest crops of contestants that Idol has ever seen. They have a chance at a rewarding career, all the way down to Karen who finished in the 12 spot, and some of the semifinalists (Kendra, other Lauren, Brett, Robbie Rosen, etc.) and even some of the fodder (Colton, Jacee, Carson Higgins, Hollie Cavanagh, etc.). There are literally dozens of contestants from this crop who have a chance at making a living in the entertainment field. The Idol Tour is going to be terrific this season, with a deep group of diverse and talented performers.

I’ll have my final recap done by the end of this weekend, and I’ll send that on. I wasn’t as happy about the endgame as I wanted to be, and I kind of think that Idol lost their sense of community a little bit in the name of insecurity. This was the first year post Simon, and Idol acted like the beaten wife. They tried too hard, and they got themselves in denial of some of their basic credos. Simon’s show won’t get the ratings that Idol gets, so when that is over by January the hope (my hope) is that Idol will relax, and go back to doing what they do best: Find great singers, and let them sing great.

Scotty and Lauren

A few bullet comments:

– The show seemed almost frantic after the fairly leisurely pace of most performance shows. It was like…… Get up get set sing get the hell out of the way the next song is coming up shut up Randy you windbag ok Scotty you are next bring out the drumline get it the hell out of the way Lauren has to sing please please don’t let her voice give out good good she got through that one Scotty you’re up good job now get off the stage Lauren one more time good good whew we have some time now so go ahead Randy tell us how incredible everyone is in it to win it for chrissakes can we retire that line J-Lo hanging them out tonight lets hope they don’t get loose she seems embalmed and confused lets create some drama even though everyone even Lauren knows Scotty is gonna win oh good Steven is awake lets ask him about basketball he thinks Lauren is so cute she should win thanks for playing Steven cue Cookie run some old footage over his head to confuse everyone and SCENE!!!!

– Lauren sang her butt off, while Scotty was more sedate. Both sang well, but I didn’t note any moments from either one of them. Lauren’s vocal problems didn’t really affect her other than when she was singing quietly. She sounded scratchy and breathy on some of the high notes, but she’s always done that.

– Ryan was genuinely nervous tonight until late in the show, probably because of Lauren’s voice issues.

– I almost listened to the filler song, but I noticed that the guy was lip synching the song so I hit the fast forward button.

– There is a report (Haley’s parents were the source) that Haley already has a recording contract, and that she is going to sing an original song tomorrow night. If this is true, it would be a first for Idol.

– I didn’t think all that much of Scotty’s “original” song, but it’s radio friendly enough. He’ll need better songs on his CD if he’s going to fulfill Idol’s dreams of a platinum selling album.

– I preferred Lauren’s original, but past history tells us that the winner’s song always massively out-performs the runner up’s song even when the latter song is the better one.

I’m working on my end of the season round-up, and one of the things that I’ve been doing is going back and re-listening to as many of the songs performed during the season as I have time for. A few notes:

– Lauren was better the second time around, in almost every case. While she made some mistakes, her voice soared on several of her performances more than I gave her credit for. Her “Flat on the Floor”, in particular, was much better than I originally thought.

– It’s almost jarring to listen to Haley early in the season and then listen to her late. She improved so much that she almost seemed like another singer. One of the videos that I’ll send a link to shows Jen almost cutting her in Hollywood, and then mentioning it to Randy the next night, when Haley was much better.

– Hollywood Week didn’t have nearly as many cool performances as last year, until round three when seemingly half the contestants blew up “God Bless the Child” or “Georgiaon my Mind”. Idol concentrated more on the drama, and didn’t really showcase any new revelations like they did last season.

——————————————–

I live blogged the finale last season, and I’ll do that again tomorrow night. It’s not exactly live, since I use my DVR and pause it when I type, but I’ll use the time on the show as I recap. I promise not to hammer on Bono too much, but don’t expect me to kiss him.

The finale is always special to me because all of the finalists get to come out and perform again, and the atmosphere is always happy and full of the joy of creating music and memories.

A redneck shindig

I have come to praise Haley Reinhart, not to bury her.

Thy judges dast ruin thyne sleep whist in feted contemplation of thy evil deeds; ast thy noble Nigel hath decreed; Lauren ist thy chosen one; if thy rendered deed dost create thystench of grievous miscarriage, dost thou dane damn Nigel withst faintest praise whilst Haley lives? Nigel is an honorable man; doest thyne grieve for Haley, who dane dreamest of ambition beyond thyst place? As thy thain bury Haley doest she harbour dreams of life, to thine expense of thy honorable Nigel’s wish to fill thyst coffers? Doest thou recoil at thy thain thought of ye fair maiden’s youthful errors, and ask thain Gods to prevail upon Nigel thy integrity of wisdom to putst thy fair maiden to the sword? Thoust asketh heroic deeds oust thy honorable Nigel, and thy task hath thine thwarted at thy very gate of thy dreams; and thus Nigel’s mighty sword hast claimed thy bloody reward….

I apologize with great kneecap skinning humility to anyone who actually reads Shakespeare, but I got on a roll…..

What an amazing run Haley had!!!! She went from reject (last year) to filler (audition rounds) to fodder (Hollywood week) to afterthought (Semifinals) to bottom feeder (Finals to Top 11) to deep sleeper (Top 11 redux to top 9) back to bottom feeder (Top 8 to top 7) to popular underdog (top 6) to internet sensation (top 5 to top 4) to the most dynamic and interesting performer of the season (top 3), coming up a week short of making the finale. She was one spot from getting dumped the first two weeks of the finals, bottom three two other times, and she didn’t make the top half of the voting until final six week – and yet when she got dumped the internet blew up in outrage.

How did she do it?

– She was consistently good enough through the early rounds, never delivering a bad performance but never being exactly brilliant, either. She tended to be a little bit sloppy with her phrasing and sometimes she was dynamically out of touch, but her intonation was very good.

– She gave the first real glimpse of her stage presence potential with her catty, jazzy semifinals performance of “Falling”, while pulling out several vocal tricks to overcome a lack of confidence in her range at both ends.

– She delivered “Blue” in final 13 week with flawless intonation and showed a couple more vocal chops, notably the ability to hit falsetto jumps flawlessly.

– She sang “Bennie and the Jets” in final 11 week redux, showing that she could do more than just growl and play-act around the stage; for the first time (that I noticed) she showed some power in her upper range and consistently good rhythm. Up until then I didn’t think that she had all that strong of a voice. She had the growl; now she had the killer scratch. You all know that I’m a total sucker for the killer scratch….

– She backslid a bit the next couple of weeks, overdoing the growl on “Piece of my Heart” and getting dunned for her lack of connection to “Call Me” (translation: sing better). She didn’t catch the mood that Debbie Harry delivered on the original, or do something that could be called an improvement on the original. Her rhythm wasn’t as good as it had been, and the questions about whether she was really ready for this level of competition came back.

– She gambled with “Rolling in the Deep” on top 7 week, delivering a dynamic performance, yet found herself back in the bottom three for the second week in a row – but the news came at the end of a amazing, moment-worthy duet with Casey Abrams on results night. She began to get serious attention from the hard core Idol fans on the internet after those back to back special performances, and her “Rolling in the Deep” performance has gone over a million hits as of yesterday. I need do some digging; to find out how special getting a million hits is for an Idol performance. It was important enough to get mentioned on her Wiki page, and I’ve seen a lot of Idol wiki pages; I’ve never seen that particular note before.

– Top 6 week she was again amazing on a duet with Casey (I feel the earth Move), overcame microphone issues on her solo song, and for the first time was in the top half in the voting.

– Top 5….. She was talked into doing an unreleased Lady Gaga song, and the judges hammered her for the choice (Jimmy’s choice) while carefully avoiding any mention of how she performed the song. She came back with her signature moment of the year, and maybe THE signature moment of the year, with her version of “House of the Rising Sun”.

– Top 4….. She got killed for her “Earth Song” (overly killed according to an internet that was completely in love with her by now), but redeemed herself with a powerful performance of “I (Who Have Nothing)”, and survived to sing another week.

– Top 3…… She gave what might eventually be called her most epic performance when she got to choose her song, killing a Led Zeppelin song despite taking a prat-fall in the middle.

She was sabotaged by the very people that were tasked with helping her at the end, and while that really bothers me I have to give them some major props for making Haley relevant in the first place. I think Jimmy was a huge help to Haley behind the scenes, drawing her talent out and getting her to work harder at her craft. The judges’ criticism damaged her in some ways, but at the same time Haley was the only contestant other than Scotty (more on him later) who steadily improved throughout the finals. She listened to them, and she used their criticism to get better. Massively better.

The judges have to be given a failing grade for this season overall, though they were entertaining and they had some good moments. They abdicated their responsibility to give honest criticism to the singers early, and once they gave that up they ceased to be relevant. I don’t like the idea of the judges being too important, but they do have their role on the show. It’s their task to point out the fixable problems that the contestants have, and make sure that they give even grades for each contestant so that they compete on a level playing field. They are tasked with pushing the contestants to get better, and work to get the most out of their talent.

How much better would Casey, Jacob, Lauren, and several others (Stefano, JAMES for chrissakes) have become with some tough love? They were allowed to run around the house wildly, crap on the floor and never learn to use a spoon, and all the judges ever said was “you are sooo CUTE!!!!” None of them ever learned the basic rules of performing from the judges (some of them learned it on their own), and how to dig deep and make it perfect. They just blathered on, made stick figure pictures, finger painted and made guns out of legos, and the judges just smiled and kept giving them gold stars. There was no recognizable growth from anyone other than Haley and Scotty.

I hope all of the mucky mucks, including Nigel, learned from their mistakes this year. They did make some very good decisions. The most important one was taking double the normal amount of singers toHollywoodand adding an extraHollywoodround. I’ll have much more to say about that part of the show in my final wrap-up next weekend. For now….

——————————————–

What to expect next week:

Lauren-

She ain’t gonna win, but she has a chance to make some hay while she is still on a 20+ million viewer show. The sense I get from her is that she might be able to nail a single song, maybe two, with a week to prepare; but she will be performing three songs again next week and probably a duet with Scotty. Good luck with that. Lauren will sound amazing with her tone, and make a ton of mistakes; just like the last several weeks. She is going to be a day short (the Finale performance show is Tuesday, not Wednesday as it has been all year), and she will have a ton of finale stuff to figure out as well. I’ll be amazed just to see her smiling instead of walking around with a rope and a chair, looking for a good place to loop it over. She ain’t ready, but she sure as hell is working her butt off to be as ready as she can be. I feel that I have to give serious props to Lauren for handling all of this when she auditioned for the show before she was old enough to drive a car.

Scotty-

With three songs to perform, a duet with Lauren, several songs with the various acts that show up for the finale results show, and one less day to figure it all out, I’ll be impressed if he just remembers his own name. It won’t matter, though. Scotty is going to win; he is flatly too far ahead for Lauren to catch him even if she craps out Lady Gaga’s stage performance chops. I expect that he’ll be uneven on Tuesday, since he has to learn about 10 songs in the next 5 days in between the constant interviews, but I expect at least one really cool performance. Scotty has grown into a very good performer in a short time without much help from his handlers; who mostly see dollar signs when they look at him.

——————————————–

Ok, why did Idol want this so much?

Lauren isn’t weak or fragile, she’s just inexperienced and full of raging teenaged hormones that drag her around like any normal teenager’s hormones would. She’s young, and as a natural result of her age she is immature, overly emotional and insecure. I get why they felt she needed kid gloves, but they kid gloved her way past where she should have finished based on her performances. She’s going to have a terrific career no matter where she would have finished, and the proper result should have been in the 4-6 range.

Pushing her to the finale, with Scotty already a lock, didn’t serve anyone’s goals. Idol is stuck with two singers who are primarilyNashvilletypes. Most of the country will mentally and emotionally check out, with no horse to ride.

I am having a hard time figuring out if there is any point to watching the finale performance night myself. As my friend Bob Gregory wrote me, there is no reason to expect anything special or new. Lauren will sing what she sings, sound beautiful but flawed, and Scotty will sound like Scotty. No Casey with his nutty performances, no Pia with her physical and vocal gifts, and most of all no Haley with her fearless, “What will she do next?” wild card dynamic. The pre-finale show is going to be a snooze.

I have every confidence that Idol will be well served by these two commercially viable singers, and it will be good for the Idol brand to back them as they sell millions of records. I am fine with Lauren in the finale, as a singer, and I am certainly on board with Scotty. Idol succeeded as a relevant tool for the radio.

I’m not so sure Idol succeeded as a reality show. Haley gave them a chance to have a dynamic finale, with dramatically opposing styles. If Lauren was going to beat her fair and square that’s fine, but Idol manipulated to get Lauren in over Haley. That’s their business, and it’s their franchise, but did they make the best decision? I will look up what the finale performance show’s ratings are. My guess is that they will be down some, and I believe very strongly that they would have gone UP if Haley was the one going up against Scotty. Lauren might be the more obvious recording star, but Haley was the best Idol contestant for the entire year. Losing her will hurt the ratings.

Stumblin’ Dice

The singers, the songs:

Round one (contestant choice)-

Scotty, “Amazed”, Lonestar

By now we all know what these kids sound like, how they move, and what we would call a typical level of performance for each of them. Scotty was typical on Amazed. Not bad, not great, just typical Scotty. I expect that this won’t be the last “typical” performance tonight. We know these kids so well now.

Lauren, “Wild One”, Faith Hill

Lauren sounded terrific in her upper range, whispery and out of breath in her lower range. Something weird happened at the end, when Lauren stopped a verse ahead of the band. My guess is that it was Lauren’s fault, but who knows? The judges didn’t even mention it.

Haley, “What is and what should never be”, Led Zeppelin

Other than falling on her butt, Haley was terrific. The first half of the song, before she ran out behind the judges, was moment quality. You gotta respect that she didn’t fall apart when she fell; she just soldiered on and finished up the song. I kept trying to remember who she reminded me of at the start, that quirky and beautiful tone… It was Didi from last year that I was thinking of, but you could go with Adele or KT Tunstall too. It’s a very current sound.

Round one went to Haley in a unanimous decision, though Steven gave some love to Lauren.

Grades:

Scotty- B

Lauren- B

Haley- A-

——————————————–

Round Two (Jimmy Iovine choice)-

Scotty, “Are you gonna kiss me or Not?”,Thompson Square

Scotty seemed a little tight on his first song and he started out tight again on this one, really pitchy and throaty. He hit his stride about halfway through, though, and finished really strong; more in line with his better performances.

Lauren, “If I Die Young”, The Band Perry

I sent out a mailer before the season started with a link to this song. I thought that it would be one of those songs that everyone would be singing. As it turns out, this is the first time anyone has sung it.

Her voice sounded fantastic on the song, but she made a couple of big mistakes and it seemed like the performance wasn’t very well rehearsed. Lauren really isn’t ready to do this much performing in such a short time. She forgot about the key change, and while she recovered and got right back in she looked a little bit lost to the end, especially when she went to sit down for the last phrase. I have to give some blame to whoever came up with the arrangement. They put too much into it, more than Lauren could handle comfortably. That said, I’ll say again that her voice sounded fantastic. The girl has a huge, rich, powerful voice.

Haley, “Rhiannon”, Fleetwood Mac

This is a tough song to wring dynamics out of. I really like it, but it’s more of a mood song than something to show off on. Haley did extremely well in giving the melody some cool twists, and she caught the mood very well. I liked the fan blowing her hair around, that was effective. Her rhythm wasn’t perfect, which is something that Haley sometimes struggles with, but let’s be real. She was much better overall than the other two contestants again, though Lauren’s voice sounded the best.

Aside- The judges and Ryan are really loose tonight, funny and spontaneous. The tone in the room is really positive and relaxed.

Round two went to Scotty according to the judges in a split decision (Steven called it for Lauren), while Haley got the predictable green weenie because she was AGAIN sabotaged by a song choice from Jimmy.

Grades:

Scotty- B+

Lauren- B (A- for singing, but dunned for the mistakes)

Haley- B+

——————————————–

Round Three (judge choice)-

Scotty, “She Believes in Me”, Kenny Rogers

Was it a moment? It’s hard to really define Scotty’s moments this year, since the judges call just about everything Scotty does a moment. I’ll say this: Scotty sings the holy crap out of ballads like this, and he had the high scratch going as well as that amazing first verse in his signature lower range. He put the perfect cherry on top with his last note, hitting it sweetly and on the tuning fork. The kid is a star, and I’m giving this one an A. I was skeptical about the song choice for Scotty, since it has that long chorus in the upper register without much movement to hide tone flaws. Scotty made it work much better than even Kenny Rogers did.

Lauren, “I Hope You Dance”, Leann Womack

She was about as flawless as she’s been all year, and she sang beautifully. That said, I don’t think that this song was any more dynamic than Haley’s “Rhiannon” was. It was sleepy and fairly boring. There is no question that Lauren has a world class tone, but there are many questions about how long it’s going to take to get the rest of her game to the level that it needs to be. This was probably a good song choice, simply so that Lauren wouldn’t have three consecutive songs with glaring mistakes in them.

Haley, “You Oughta Know”, Alanis Morrisette

I didn’t think that this was a good song choice either, and I question why both Jimmy I and the judges would misread Haley’s style so badly. The first part of the song wasn’t very good because it was way too low for Haley’s wheelhouse, but she brought it from there on in, and nailed that last note as perfectly as anyone could. Haley sang as well or better than the other two contestants in all three rounds, but she was AGAIN sabotaged by a song choice that wasn’t her own.

Again, the judges gave all the love to the two country singers and reserved the only criticism for Haley. Let’s hope that it works again, lol….

Round three winner was…… Lauren? Steven called it for Haley, but the other two judges goose stepped, saluted Nigel and shilled for the chosen one.

Grades:

Scotty- A

Lauren- B+

Haley- A-

——————————————–

Safe to in danger

I was way wrong last week, so obviously anything is possible, but again I expect Scotty to cruise to the finale and I also expect that it’s going to be very close between the two girls for the second spot. DialIdol has Scotty at 30, Lauren at 14, and Haley at 12. That’s too close to call, but it’s pretty obvious that the show wants Lauren while Haley would, to me, make for the much more dynamic finale.

Wrap-up:

Tonight was a microcosm of the last month, really. Haley blew her songs out, got stuck with bad songs whenever it was possible, and the judges reserved all of their criticism for Haley while they slurped Scotty and Lauren. The final round was the sickest example all season. Lauren was “perfect” while singing a boring, safe song while Haley was given some criticism for her verses while performing a song Lauren, or J-Lo for chrissakes, would butcher at karaoke.

And then there were three

th (6)I was really surprised when JD got the boot. I mentioned last week that the voting was very close (behind Scotty, who is running away with it so far), but I was pretty sure that JD was safe this week. Haley got hammered by the judges AGAIN, didn’t sing as well as she had the last few weeks, and was well behind everyone else on DialIdol. Lauren’s crying jag was fresh in everyone’s minds and she was uneven this week, so if Haley got her fanbase motivated (apparently she did) I expected Lauren to be the one who got dumped. I honestly didn’t even take into consideration that JD would get the boot.

Performances:

Scotty/James- I enjoyed their performance. I don’t normally grade these things; it’s sort of pointless since they mostly just toss these things together, but if I did I’d give them a B something. What I noticed more than anything else was that JD sang some complex harmonies on the fly. He had to, since they probably spent less than a half hour blocking the entire performance out and most of that was probably about who was going where. The kid can sing harmony like a pro. He was as impressive on that as he’s been for just about anything that he’s done all season, to my ears. Scotty got drowned out, as he always does. He doesn’t have a big voice, and he doesn’t know how to use the mic yet. He’ll learn how to use the mic, and his style isn’t about having a big voice anyway.

Haley/Lauren– Again, I don’t grade these, but Haley has been blowing these duets away for weeks and this week was no different. Both of the girls sang very sweet harmonies, and I think that both of them were pretty terrific on their lead parts too. If I was grading it, this might be up in the low A range. I’ll listen to it again, for sure, and it might make my top 30 in my wrap-up recap at the end of the year. By the way, how tall is Lauren? I know Haley is pretty short, but Lauren really towers over her. She must be a good 5-8, and maybe more like 5-10. She is almost as tall as Scotty, and he ain’t short.

I skipped over the Lady Gaga and Rickey Martin performances.

Don’t shoot me…. I know that it wasn’t Rickey Martin. The guy (Enrique Iglesias) can handle a joke; he’s been diddling Anna Kournikova for years, and if you want a good joke read about his descriptions of their relationship. They are married; they are broken up; they were secretly married; they were secretly separated; they secretly joined a cult and now he can’t drink koolaid anymore….. I’ve seen footage of a blind whale spelling words by shooting paint at a canvas out of his blow hole that was easier to understand.

I remember channel surfing years ago and stumbling into the middle of a performance with a 120 member choir, a 42 piece orchestra, and several dozen dancers. I think there might have been a flag corps, an honor guard and some dancing midgets, but it was a long time ago. Anyway, this army of performers did their thing and, when the song was over, they were introduced as “Rickey Martin”. I wasn’t even sure which one he was, but he was in there somewhere.

I did watch Jordin Sparks do her song. Was she lip-syncing? I think that she was. For shame, former Idol!!! She looks really good, having lost some weight in what seems to be a general wave of post-Idol divas getting on the Jenny Craig plan. Even Kelly Clarkson is losing weight, and she looks terrific.

Steven’s video was a hot mess of images, very confusing. I wonder where he got the elephant. Paul Lynde was center square on Hollywood Squares in the mid 1970’s. Peter Marshall asked him the question: “Who is pregnant longer: your wife or your elephant?” Lynde, with no hesitation: “Who told you about my elephant?”

I liked the song, and I liked the belly dancer who sang with him. Who is she? Oh wait, I can look that up…

Ok, I’m an idiot. It’s Nicole Sherzinger, the lead singer of the “Pussy Cat Dolls”, and the winner of “Dancing with the Stars” last year. I really need to get out more. She looks really exotic, doesn’t she? She’s part Filipino, part Hawaiian, and part Russian. Apparently she was born with no ears. No, I’m not saying she’s tone deaf. She was literally born without ears. (added later) this turned out to be one of those internet bullshit ‘facts’. I like to think I’m a little more skeptical now, but I doubt it.

——————————————–

Subtle moments, subtle movements:

When Lauren got the first spot on the (good this time) hard chairs, Haley smiled like she was going to be nice no matter what (but her eyes were very dark), and JD looked slightly concerned. When HALEY got the second spot (Ryan had to show her the results to get her to believe it), JD knew what was coming, and he couldn’t hide it. He tried to show his stoic side, trying to be calm, but his eyes betrayed his emotions. He got really dark, and a little bit wet. I could feel the energy from him coming through the TV screen. He was thinking like a guy that was on the way to the gallows, and trying to figure out if there was any way to avoid it. His “life” was flashing in front of his eyes. He hadn’t been in the bottom three all season, and he could taste the finale. He was SURE that he was going to be in the finale, like most of us probably believed as well.

When the hammer fell, JD made the same face (“crap”) that Siobhan made last year when she got the boot after never being in the bottom three. He recovered quickly, but JD isn’t some automaton. If there is one dominant trait to JD’s personality that I feel that I can trust, it’s that he will project exactly how he feels whether he likes it or not. He won’t lie, because he flat can’t lie. He would be the worst poker player ever.

JD didn’t think that he was going to get booted yet. He felt like he was going to at least make the final three, go to his triumphant homecoming, and he was already planning the trip. He felt that his metal persona, his big voice and his theatrical performances would count enough to get past this one more week. He hadn’t heard one negative word from the judges all season, so he didn’t see it coming. Like Lauren he had been treated like a star, and with kid gloves, all season.

The question that I want to ask is: Did the judges (I mean producers, the judges are reading from Nigel’s notes half the time) undo their own agenda by overdoing their agenda? Did they actually hurt JD by never saying anything negative? It was obvious since Pia got tossed that they wanted JD in the mix, to counter Scotty’s fairly weak voice. They haven’t given any honest criticism to Lauren either, other than to keep telling her to take chances. The Idol nightmare was that Haley would face off against Scotty, and now they might very well get that. They tried so mightily to prevent it that they motivated the Idoloonies, the internet Idol nut-jobs, to get involved in the voting and push Haley through. Haley has been the wise-guy choice for several weeks online (since Pia), but she would have been gone a couple of weeks ago if her voting bloc hadn’t gotten pissed off about the judges.

I don’t care about the political crap myself, other than for the sheer fun of speculating. What I care about is that these kids get a long run on the show to learn from the best, and get better at their craft.

JD came to the show with as much raw talent as anyone Idol has ever seen. Idol kept passing him through. They never told him to sing better, learn how to sing better, work on finding new vocal chops or finding new ways to bend a melody. None of the mentors braced him about singing out of tune, showing him the tricks of the trade to avoid that. They didn’t kill him for “Amazed”, when his famously high range was left in the back room. They didn’t tell him, week after week, that all the bullshit stage props in the world won’t hide him if he didn’t sing his ass off. They let him run wild and play, and he ran wild and played. He didn’t develop one lick, because in his mind he was doing so well. He was on a runner, man, and nobody was going to stop him. In his mind he was already a superstar, because that’s all they ever told him.

They kept telling him that he was great, and JD isn’t the type of self analyzing guy who would find another opinion. He’s a guy who came from nothing, who had this one special gift (that VOICE) to get himself out of the world that he was drowning in. He was riding a runner, a streak, and every time the seven came up he yelled, danced, and felt like he was too hot to ever lose. The voice of reason, which is the job of the judges, never uttered a word.

And then he got tossed, and now what does he do? He doesn’t have several weeks of growth to fall back on, because he didn’t grow an inch. His special voice, that kept him alive so long, won’t be all that special now that he will be competing with the rest of the world. I still believe in him, but it’s from a different place. He won’t be just a voice anymore, so he needs to be something more.

JD is a good guy, an emotional guy, the bastard love child of Fred Flintstone’s late night encounter with Lita Ford (Tell me you wouldn’t at least download THAT sex-tape….) and that will help him. If he can translate his emotions to tape, he will be hard to ignore. His intonation isn’t that bad, and with studio help he should sound amazing. He will be dynamic as hell in concert, with his energy. To me, it’s all about whether he can find a song that will blow up the radio. It’s almost always about that. He isn’t really a metal singer right now, so if he goes that way he will probably get stomped like a rancid mushroom, but he does have the ability to sing power pop/rock stuff. He lives and dies by the power of the melody that he has in his hands, so if I were to advise him I would tell him to find the best melodies that he can, and worry about the energy later. He can always rework the arrangement, but he isn’t good at crapping out a good melody.

I spent a lot of time on him, didn’t I? I really like JD, and I am hugely bummed that Idol didn’t take the time to develop him so much as they rode him like a plow horse. I hope that they don’t just send him to the glue factory. He made them a lot of money. He deserves to get some help in return, to teach him how to make a living in music.

——————————————–

Power Rankings:

Yeah, right. Scotty is the prohibitive favorite. Haley and Lauren (and their respective voting blocs) will have one hell of a fight next week to get the spot next to him, so they can hug him and congratulate him. The real fight is between Haley and Lauren, and who knows? The runaway leader never wins, so they have a punchers’ chance.

——————————————–

I have a couple of notes, internet info:

– The final three all got their triumphant home-comings, with 30,000 people for each one. I found it pleasing and warming that James was greeted by his own 30,000 people in his hometown as well.

– Each singer will sing a judges’ choice song. Haley is going to sing “You Oughta Know” from Alanis Morrisette; Lauren will sing “I Hope You Dance” by Leann Womack; and Scotty will sing “She Believes in Me” by Kenny Rogers.

– Josh Turner showed up for Scotty’s homecoming, and they dueted on his “Your Man” (baby lock them doors and turn them lights down low…..) with Turner’s band. Scotty bagged some groceries at his old job and got the key to the city.

– Lauren spent some time in tornado ravaged parts of Georgia, and paraded down her local main street backed by a couple of marching bands before being presented with the key to the city.

– Haley did two separate concerts, one at the local Community College and one atArlingtonPark(it’s a major horse racing venue). She signed autographs and was begged to sing everywhere she went, according to the report, but limited herself to the pair of concerts because of bad weather.

I noticed, from the article that I stole all of this from, that their respective cities wanted to HONOR Lauren and Scotty, but more than anything else they wanted Haley to SING. Does that mean anything? Probably not, but it does point out something: Haley is the only Idol left in the competition who is here because of her singing on the Idol stage. Scotty is the chosen one, and Lauren is future Carrie Underwood. Haley is just, well, Haley. And they all want to hear her sing.

Final four perform

The singers, the songs

James, “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey

JD has a bigger voice than even Steve Perry does so he deserves some props, but he didn’t challenge himself with this song. JD didn’t pull the emotion out of the song like Perry did, so to me the performance was pleasant, but somewhat empty and safe. JD didn’t hurt himself, but he didn’t help himself either.

Randy was Journey’s bass player, so he knows the song very well. The judges were nice, but I didn’t sense that they were blown away. Randy did note the degree of difficulty, but he might have overstated how much JD slayed the song.

Haley, “The Earth Song”, Michael Jackson

She took a chance, going with another song that was a stretch. Unlike last week (when she was terrific) she might have stretched too far. I didn’t like all the growling (she should have gone with more scratch), and she got tapped out and really screechy at the top end. This was Haley’s first bad performance in several weeks. She will need to blow it up with her second song. Is her voice giving out? She was really weak at the top compared to her recent performances. Maybe she doesn’t have it tonight?

Randy almost went Simon on her when she talked back, but truthfully I’m with Randy this time. Haley wasn’t good on that song.

Scotty, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”, Alan Jackson

Scotty really learns, and he really pays attention to the details. He sang the song very well, of course (no surprise), but what I noted more than anything else was how much more command of the song he has developed over the past few weeks. He was completely on top of the song, controlling the direction all the way to the end. He might have taken the song up in his range more than he needed to, trying to prove that he has that range, but that’s all about competition stuff. If he were just singing the song to us, he would have been brilliant. He left the eyebrow thing out, too, which was why I mentioned that he pays attention.

The judges all gushed, as they should have. Scotty is really earning it now.

By the way, as much as I love Alan Jackson as a songwriter I hated this song. I spent every waking moment after theTradeCenterbombings writing my own song about it, and I finished it four days later. My song wasn’t nice and sweet, and about being a victim. The title was “Any Last Words?”. I got it recorded, but by the time I could push it songs like this piece of weak shit had taken over the airwaves. I’m not bitter, but I’m not all that sweet about it. When exactly did Americans turn into such overprotective wimps? My single largest disappointment with my country in my lifetime is how our leaders reacted to 911. I was raised on the idea that we are the meanest, coldest nosed mongrels in the junkyard; but with a heart of gold. I can’t even go into it without spending 15 thousand words, if I have any hope of stating my position fairly and accurately. I thought that we were mean, but fair. As it turns out we are not mean or fair. Instead of being lions, we presented ourselves to the world as arrogant weasels. Instead of taking action against those who oppose us, we created what might as well be called the Gestapo (homeland security), taking action against ourselves. I sometimes wonder if the terrorists quit hammering us because they can’t stop laughing long enough to plan a campaign. We are as much of a punch line now asPolandwas when I was growing up. I am embarrassed as a former military man. We need to be better, don’t we?

Lauren, “Anyway”, Martina McBride

Lauren has a tone that can’t be taught and tonight she sounded terrific; but her breathing issues came back and she also shied away from some of the high notes in places where she needed to come out aggressively. She smiled and giggled in places that didn’t fit, and she seemed almost glad that the song was over. Give the kid a few years to learn how to sing and perform, and she will be a monster. Today, though, she is very talented but honestly no further along in her training than Thia is.

——————————————–

Round One Grades:

James- B-

Haley- C+

Scotty- B+

Lauren- C+

——————————————–

The second half is songs from Leiber and Stoller. My only hope was that someone would tackle “Love Potion # 9”. I love that song. I assumed that, since Casey is out, nobody would sing Yakety Yak.

The mentor for the L&S songs is Stefani Germanotta, who we all know (of course) as Lady Gaga. I like her, though her music and her performance style aren’t aimed at old farts like me. I still expect that, eventually, Lady Gaga will return to being Stefani Germanotta and get a good laugh at our expense for buying into such a cheesy and obviously fake persona. She just seems like she is perpetrating an obvious put-on, and the woman behind the persona seems so smart and aware of everything.

I happen to know a guy that just came home from running lights for Lady Gaga’s last tour. He was dubious about it before he left last winter, but he ended up really enjoying the tour. He stopped by the bar yesterday, and we talked about his next “adventure”. He was originally slated to join Brittany Spears, but her father (who runs her tour, her career, and her life) decided to hire only female techs to run sound and lights. ApparentlyBrittanycan’t be trusted around males, and he also told me that nobody in her entourage can drink or do any drugs (they all get tested daily). He ended up getting a gig with Prince, who is doing a series of sit-down gigs right now, starting inLos Angeles.

I only mention it because he also took special care to separate Lady Gaga’s persona from someone like Brittany, or a Rhianna. He left her tour having complete respect for Lady Gaga’s talent as well as her professionalism. He was even wearing a Lady Gaga tour T-shirt. If you knew this guy, you would know that this means a lot. He is a “too cool” kind of guy, who always wears stuff from the cool cats; his favorite gig ever was with Delbert McLinton. He wouldn’t wear a Lady Gaga T-shirt unless he respected her.

The singers, the songs-

Haley, “I who have Nothing”

Is it just me, or does Haley sound sort of like Joan Rivers? Can we talk? PuhLeeze… Grow up….

Haley sang the crap out of the song, but two things: 1: This song has been done before on Idol, and better; and 2: She moosed out the last note and her breath wasn’t the dramatic pause that she was going for. I don’t think that her singing will hurt her, but the song was too draggy and cabaret to give her the moment that she needed. Haley is in trouble, especially since the judges ain’t ever going to say anything bad about Lauren. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a bad feeling.

The judges laid it on thick, mostly to build drama, but let’s be real. Haley wasn’t amazing tonight.

Scotty, “Young Blood”

Man, you have GOT to be kidding me. Scotty McCreery with this song, and he only went low once? I felt cheated. He sang well, though, and I enjoyed it. Scotty seems to bring out something new every week (this week it was the Buck Owens rubbery, slangy speaking/singing thing), and every week he gets a little bit more comfortable in his skin. His upper range is exponentially stronger than it was when he first came toHollywood, and last I checked he was still in High School. Give this kid a few years and he has a chance to be one of those guys that not only sell records, but win all the awards for being such a good singer and such a creative force. I can’t overstate just how impressed I am with his growth as a performer on the show. Oh, and he can sing a little too.

Randy called Scotty’s two performances both sides of a Scotty concert. He did this last week, too. Scotty is really coming into his own. I am excited for Scotty like I was when Ken Griffey Junior joined the Mariners back in 1989, when he was still a teenager (and playing with his father, for chrissakes). The line that I remember Bill James saying about Junior fits Scotty: “He has set no reasonable limits for himself. He can become anything.” Scotty ain’t gonna sing opera at the Met, but in his field he has a chance to be something very special.

Lauren, “Trouble”

Two things again: 1: When it went up-tempo she lost the terrific early momentum that she built up, and the middle of the song was mostly a waste of time; and 2: She chickened out again on one of her glory notes, going to a weak falsetto instead of blowing that note out. Other than that, this was the most dynamically effective Lauren that we’ve heard in months. Lady Gaga had a very positive effect on her, and for the first time since her audition Lauren went after the song instead of singing scared (other than that one note). She scratched, and she blew notes out. She looked confident, and she showed a glimpse of what she is going to be able to do when she grows into her considerable talent. Had she stayed on the stage instead of going into the crowd and losing her momentum (and hit that one note), I would have called this a moment. She was that good on the rest of the song.

James, “Love Potion Number Nine” (Yes!!!!!!)

First off, I love this song and JD didn’t do it at all like I am used to hearing it. He didn’t catch the ridiculousness of it, or the sheer banality of a song about some chemist that finds an elixir that makes him irresistible to the opposite sex. He gave only a cursory glance to what is a terrific melody, and turned it into something completely different.

And he slayed it. I was teetering at the end, waiting for him to finish out the crowd dominating end game, almost ready to hate it. He hit that last note perfectly; with some growl, some rasp, and perfectly expressed joy. Vocally it was more in JD’s range of show-offness than his earlier song, but what made it a moment for me was his stage command. He owned the song, he owned the stage, and he owned the crowd. He’s been trying to do this for weeks and mostly coming up a little short. Tonight, he nailed it.

——————————————–

Grades:

Haley- B+

Scotty- B+

Lauren- A-

James- A

Safe to in danger:

Scotty

James

Lauren

Haley

Haley is going home tomorrow night unless something really weird happens. She has had a long and amazing journey to get this far, but she chose her song poorly twice tonight and didn’t sing as well as she has sung the last few weeks. Scotty and JD had terrific nights, so they are cruising. Lauren….

Lauren wasn’t great on her first song, but she was as good as she’s been in months on her last one. I wondered how she would come back from her embarrassing reaction to rejection last week. She came back tough and strong, didn’t she? She wasn’t perfect tonight, not by miles and miles, but she came back with a passion that was missing for several weeks. To me, Lauren stepped up and made herself heard. Haley could have blown her out of the game with some good decisions, but she didn’t. She chose the wrong songs.