Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fox is Inspired to Make Money!

Unfortunately Idol decided the whole give millions to the poor people of the world thing was a good idea so we get another installment of Idol Gives Back this week. It’s not that I’m against helping the impoverished, but Idol is not a Jerry Lewis telethon. Idol is all about escapism; forget the busy life around you and have a good time living vicariously through the judges for a couple hours. This model worked fine for half a decade and then suddenly they decided they wanted to ‘give back.’ Last year they raised over 70 million dollars, which is impressive, but how much money are they going to make on the commercials during Idol Gives Back? How much extra money are they getting from the extra Idol show on Thursday? I have no actual proof to back up my theory, but I’m fairly certain the Idol Gives Back show is nothing more than a surreptitious money making opportunity. But hey, if some African kids get to meet Carrie Underwood out of the show I guess it’s worthwhile right? Besides the whole self-indulgent nature of the show, I am also bothered by the fact NONE of the performances will be live. Ok maybe some will, but for the most part the show is filmed and waiting to be aired. Part of what makes something like Live 8 or the Grammys so amazing is the tremendous amount of talent gathered in one place at the same time. Idol Gives Back will probably try to fool people into thinking that’s what they pulled off for their charitable effort, but we know the truth. Anyway, back to tonight’s show. Inspirational music is the theme, which means the Idols can pretty much select any song they want as long as it inspires someone somewhere. However, with such a broad theme at least, probably two, Idols will overreach and sing a song that inspires few if any votes. I wonder if they will let Kristy do her favorite ‘song ever of all time in the known universe,’ Amazing Grace. I think she sang this song at every round until she reached the top 24. It’s an inspirational song right? And since they let Kimberly Locke sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ about 20 times during season 2 I think Kristy is due for another grace that is amazing.

All the Idols are on the stage as Ryan introduces the show. I wonder if he ever says “This is American Idol’ without the pause during rehearsals. There are so few Idols left they can walk out right away when the stage opens. During the top 12 they had to wait a good 10 seconds before they could walk out, lest one of them walk right into a moving door.

Michael Johns – Dream On

He considers dreaming on until your dreams come true a universal truth. He came to this country to follow his dream and he is finally living it on American Idol. Listen to Michael kids, if you dream it and are willing to work, you too can make it happen. This is a realllly big song near the end that seemingly only Steve Tyler can sing properly, so Michael may be too aggressive on his serve and volley. He sounds good on the first line but maybe runs into a little trouble transitioning into the next phrase. I am convinced the band loves him and David Cook the most; let’s face it playing rock music is a lot more fun than giving Brooke White and David A. backing music. Michael is not moving at all. I think a little movement around the stage would do him so good. He is building up momentum as the song nears the end. Will he attempt the screaming vocals? Yes he will, he sounds pretty good during the first part, but cannot quite complete the entire scream fest. The last part of the song is much better than I was expecting, even though he does run out of steam at the very end. If the judges compare him to Steve Tyler they will not like it, but if they judge him on his own merits he deserves a trip to the dawg pound. Randy says he really believes this week is important because the Idols are telling us who they really are. He likes the song choice, but takes issues with some of the pitch problems. He just doesn’t buy Michael as a rock star. Michael says he had to sing this song because his living in American is proof dreams come true. So, since he was dreaming to come to America and leave his native country, doesn’t that make him a traitor? Also, if he makes the top 3 and they visit his hometown, which one will they visit? The place he lives in America or will they travel all the way down under. Paula disagrees with Randy because this was a perfect song choice. She gets a little weird when she says her Chihuahuas are the only ones that could hear Michael’s high notes. Simon echoes Randy’s point about Michael not really being a rock star, but he does call it a good performance. Simon didn’t like Michael as much as he did last week and thinks there was a wannabbe quality to the performance. Michael says he sang the song because dreams are coming true every night on Idol. You mean like last week when they kicked Ramiele off? Was that a dream coming true Michael? Actually, it was a dream come true for 8 people, which means miracles do come true!

Syesha – Believe

She gets one of the coveted sit downs with Ryan. She says Ramiele was her former roommate and they still keep in touch. She is singing a Fantasia song because she loves its message – if you believe in yourself anything is possible. For her this week is all about giving back, and she gives back through music. Music huh? Last time I checked music doesn’t feed the homeless or educate those poor children in third world countries, but it does make a lot of money for itunes. This song is not exactly a ‘classic,’ so for her to successfully pull this off she will need to pour a ton of emotion into her voice. She definitely sounds good, but I’m missing an emotional connection. Consider, when Fantasia sang this song there were fireworks going off all around her and she was just crowned the winner of American Idol. Her intensity and fire made the song work. Syesha is just not able to add her own willpower to the song to force it into our hearts like Fantasia. For some reason they added a male back up singer this week. He is really singing loud on this arrangement, almost like this is a duet. Maybe we’ll get a separate number to vote for him as well. Although she has a pretty and strong voice, she just lacks the raw power this song requires. Syesha must believe in moving and singing at the same time because she moves less than a slug the entire time. She misses the pitch during one of the final runs, but makes up for it with a really spectacular high note. Randy gives her credit for taking on another tough artist, but he didn’t feel a connection with her like he did with Fantasia. Syesha asks for an explanation. She asks him if he believes she personally connected. Paula says not many people can take on songs like that (does she mean songs that just aren’t that good). She believes Syesha made the song all her own and hands down this is one of Syesha’s most shiny nights. Simon says of course they will compare her to Fantasia. He thinks she sang it well technically, but he wanted more emotion. He wants her to share with them who she really is in the upcoming weeks. Hey at least she resists the temptation to break into the baby cry while they are saying she isn’t as good as Fantasia. Ryan again reminds us that the numbers are not of the 1-800 variety. Just once I want the courage to call the 1-800 version, but since he keeps warning us not to call it I’m afraid I’ll have a 10 dollar charge appear on my phone bill. Next time I’m watching Idol at someone else’s house, I’m so calling the 800 number.

Jason Castro – Somewhere Over Hawaii

He is singing a non-traditional version of the song by a guy from Hawaii. But if he really wants to get votes I say he comes out wearing a dress and carrying a little dog in a basket. For Jason the song is all about hope and dreams coming true. This is perhaps his most coherent explanation of a song choice this season. Maybe he is finally getting comfortable during interviews. Will he play the ukulele himself? I’m guessing no way, and I am totally wrong. I am already impressed. I have no idea if it’s hard to play the ukulele compared to the guitar, but how cares, HE IS PLAYING THE UKULELE! He sounds amazing tonight. His voice is not the biggest, but it’s one of the purest. I’ve heard the original version by the Hawaiian guy and this is not just a copy. Jason is adding his own interpretation. He is hitting every note and pausing just enough to pull you into the song wondering where it will go next. Unlike a few previous times, his falsetto tonight is perfect. The audience is thankfully not swaying their hands, instead they are all transfixed on Jason lost in the moment. This is the best so far and barring a “Billie Jean” moment, it will be the best of the night. The crowd erupts when the song is over and gives Jason a standing ovation. Of course this is American Idol and you get a standing ovation just about every time you perform, but still, it’s pretty cool. None of the other males on the show can deliver such a subtle performance. Randy says Jason is back in the hunt and he was the hottest of the night, in fact he was blazing molten hot. Paula things he has the most definitive sound and picked the perfect song. He did a great job she says. Simon says the first time he heard the version he wasn’t sure, second time he loved it, and third time was FANTASTIC. Last night on Larry King Live all the judges said Jason would be gone soon and had no chance to win the whole thing – I think they might take that back now.

Kristy Lee Cook – Anyway

Ryan gives us our first itunes plug of the night and introduces Kristy as the girl determined to stay out of the bottom three. The song means a lot to her because of a verse that says pour out your soul and give everything you have and if people don’t like it just do it anyway because you are doing it because it is right, which tells her not to give up and give it her best shot no matter happens and things will work out. Translation – you cannot kill me American I’m going to keep singing songs you do not like because she is right! Surprisingly, despite several trips into the bottom three, Kristy is still not slutting it up. She gets a lot of respect from me for ‘keeping it real.’ The song starts off in her lower register and starts to build until she hits a pretty good big note. She is sounding really good. She is at her best on the big power notes. I think for the first time this season Kristy is really emoting during a song. She is probably thinking about all the times she has fallen into the torture that is the bottom three. Paula likes the song so much we can see her stand up in the middle and start dancing. Since Paula escapes the midget classification by only 3 inches, it’s hard to tell if she is standing up, but once she starts dancing too there can be no mistake. This is without a doubt the best Kristy performance this season. And she didn’t even have to sing Amazing Grace. Randy says despite some pitch problems he really liked it. Paula thinks Kristy delivered her best performance by far. Simon jokes as though he is going to be critical of her, but segues into a compliment saying she was very good indeed. He adds, that she looks like a star tonight. Paula almost ruins Kristy’s moment by saying she sang unbelievably well tonight and Simon corrects her saying it was really good but not unbelievable. Ryan quickly and wisely gets them off the subject before Simon reconsiders his suddenly positive disposition towards Kristy.

David Cook – Innocent

When they come back from the break there is a random person sitting in Simon’s lap. Ryan tells us he is the one that hired them all and Simon calls him the real dark lord of Fox. The message of the song is that everyone has a good side but you have to embrace it to be comfortable in your own skin. He really likes what the song is trying to convey – everyone has a good heart at the end of the day. He starts the song in his really low voice. I am not sure we’ve heard this from him yet. Unfortunately in the lower register David has a hard time enunciating. He sounds much better when the song shifts into the higher section, however he has issues there as well when he goes into his limited falsetto. The song picks up momentum when it reaches the chorus. The song is less than two minutes long, and he wastes half of it getting to the good stuff. He sounds good once he starts belting out notes. He stands in front of the judges and Paula cannot help herself, she just has to dance. On the final verse of the song he returns into his lower voice and this time sounds excellent. You can clearly hear every word, which means he must have messed up a little at the start. In the cleverest use of a pen in Idol history David wrote “Give Back” on his palm and holds it up in front of the camera when he finishes the song. Randy is a huge fan of David, but he isn’t sure this is one of his strongest weeks. He didn’t quite get it tonight. Paula disagrees saying David is the whole package. Simon did not like this performance very much at all. He thinks it was a big pompous; he is not a fan of white jackets. Simon says the primary criteria for judging performances are 1) originality, 2) choice of songs, 3) and something you are going to remember after two or three days. So Sanjaya had one out of three. Simon doesn’t say David was bad tonight, just nowhere near as good as the last couple weeks. Paula, who is usually incoherent, is the only judge that noticed the writing on David’s hand. Simon and Randy both call David’s gesture a nice thing to do.

Carly – Show Must Go On

For her the lyrics of the song are inspirational because life must go on and you must make every moment of your life count. She watched Freddie Mercury on Live Aid and never imagined herself singing in this type of environment. I bet at the time she also didn’t think she’d have a massive tattoo on her arm/shoulder and be married to a guy that looks like he is currently serving a ten year sentence for assault and battery. She sounds pretty good at the start of the song. But this is the easy part, how will she handle the big section? She looks like she is about to kill someone while she is singing. She goes completely off pitch in the middle. Throughout the entire song it feels like she doesn’t know where she wants to take us, perhaps it’s because of the errant pitches. This song feels disjointed and is a huge let down. Maybe she should have had a male back up singer like Syesha. Once the song got big it swalloed her up. Randy says it started good, got pitchy on the high notes, and ended up just ok for him; it was disconnected for him. Paula actually agrees with Randy a little. She compliments Carly’s voice but didn’t feel the connection with Carly. Simon starts off by complimenting Carly’s clothing selection. He thinks she picked an unusual song for the theme, and he is right. The ‘Show Must Go On’ is one of the most powerful Queen songs, but it’s story of dogged determination is more tragic than inspiring. It includes the lyrics, “Another heartache another failed romance. On and On. Does anybody know what we are living for? Outside the dawn is breaking. But inside in the dark I’m aching to be free.” Yeah that’s inspiring all right. Queen released this song just six weeks before Freddie died and it’s in large part about his struggle with AIDs and his will to carry on despite his failing health. Certainly his struggle is inspiring, but this is just not the right song choice for Idol Gives Back. If she was going to sing this song at least give us a little emotion instead of just screaming out big power notes. Back to tonight. Simon says she lost control of the song halfway through and was perplexed why she looked so angry while she was singing. Ryan asks her how she felt about her performance and Carly says fell apart a little because she looked at Simon while she was singing. I cannot imagine millions of people having the inspiration to vote for Carly after this performance.

David A. – Angels

David gets another sit down with Ryan. He asks him what this week has been like. David says it’s been a blast and he has had to practice at odd hours of the night and morning. He wasn’t sure which song to pick because there were so many, but he really connected with Angels and the message contained within – there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. He fails to mention he has been performing this song in public for at least two years, which would give him an obvious advantage over something singing a song they just heard a few days prior. You know I think David has some type of condition that prevents the proper regulation of heat in his body. I say this because every time they show him he seems to be wearing a jacket. Wow he is sitting behind the piano. I wonder how long until he gets up to belt out the power notes. He sounds good at the start of the song – his voice not his piano playing. Let’s face it you can get better piano playing from the weird guy in the mall that likes to play the keyboards they have on display inside the Yamaha store. He insists on placing runs that aren’t originally included in the song. Although he sounds good and is on pitch, his voice lacks a certain timbre. Maybe puberty could correct this; he should be there in another 5 or 6 years? If you are going to play the piano so poorly why even bother? Just let the guys upstairs play your music. I kind of like the blues run near the end of the song, but for me David is like a typical back up singer. Nice, in tune voice, but lacking that special something that makes a voice unique. I am not a big fan of the chosen one, but this is a pretty good rendition of a great song and I find myself liking more than any other week so far. Get ready the judges are about to genuflect. They show his abusive dad in the audience and he is finally wearing a dress hat, not one of them trucker ones he normally sports. Randy says he loves the little refrain at the end because that’s the David A. dude that loves and it was his hottest moment of the season. It was crazy crazy hot. Paula says ditto. Simon says best song choice of the night and wonders why this song never became a huge hit in America. However, he doesn’t say it was David’s best vocal because it was nasally, but he ensures David he will sail through to the next round. David is known for licking his lips a lot so one of his 12 year old fans is holding a sign in the audience that says “Lick those Lips.” I think it would be great if during a baseball game the fans signal out a player that has a penchant for adjusting his cup with a sign saying “Touch that crotch.”
Thankfully during the judges’ praising he doesn’t have the OMG OMG OMG look on his face. Instead, he looked a little scared half the time. I wonder if Idol is taking its toll on young David.

Brooke White – You’ve got a Friend

This seems like an odd choice to close the show as Brooke rarely gets everyone on their feet, but maybe she can deliver a really heart warming performance. Ryan is standing in the crowd surrounded by female security. An older lady is terrified being on camera and cannot even get out the word yes when Ryan asks her if they have plans this weekend. Ryan also gives us out second itunes advertisement of the night. The album Tapestry helped inspire Brooke to do music. UNLIKE DAVID, she mentions she sang this song before. She sang it with a few friends and she considers a feel good song that makes people feel happy. I love how during her introduction video, and almost every other Idol, they manage to show them listening to an ipod. Nobody does product placement like American Idol. If this is such a feel good song, why does Brooke look like she just found out there is no Easter Bunny? She sounds ok but shouldn’t look a little happier? She looks scared I think. Has David’s dad been abusing her too? As with every song she sings the upper notes always feel like they are at the very limit of her vocal range, but she manages to hit them every time. She wisely didn’t try playing the piano tonight; she is no Elton or Billy but she is at least better than David A. She is singing this song just ok; there is nothing that is amazing about it and her scared expression kills any chance for an emotional connection. I really have no idea why they put her in the pimp spot. She looks like she is crying when she finishes. Her dad, brother, and piano teacher are among her family and friends. Randy says it wasn’t her best performance; he wasn’t jumping up and down but he wasn’t mad at her either. So now we know ‘ok’ is somewhere between calisthenics and rage. Paula reminisces about her sister constantly playing this song. She says Brooke is very definitive and she loves her. Simon describes it as a pleasant walk in the park. It was nice if not original. Brooke continues her Sophie’s Choice moment demeanor and Ryan asks her if she is doing ok and she manages to get out a muted yes, even though she is shaking. Someone needs to get this girl some Prozac before she has a never breakdown.

Final Thoughts

Michael is still not Steven Tyler. Syesha still needs to have a child out of wedlock to sing this song. Jason is still amazing. Kristy is still better than the judges think. David is still using the creepy lower voice. Carly is still not going on with the show. David is still not as good as the judges think. Brooke is still terrified. Tonight was a pretty good night of performances, but three must end up at the bottom. We know it will not be Jason or David A. because they were both really good tonight. Brooke had a scare in the bottom three so she will have a lot of friends voting her into safety. David Cook and Michael were great last week and pretty good this week, so they should also be safe. That leaves Carly, Syesha, and Kristy in the bottom three. Kristy certain does not belong down there, but based on her track record I’d be foolish to think she will escape it’s grasp in two successive weeks. Based on just tonight, Carly should be going home, however, I have to believe her fan base is larger than Syesha. Further, a lot of people might not like the way she sang the song compared to Fantasia, which could cause a hemorrhaging of her vote total. Therefore, I’m predicting that Syesha did not inspire belief in the voting public and will be joining Ramiele as her roommate very soon.


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