American Idol: A Top 13 (Hey, It’s My Lucky Number!)

As much as I dwell in a pit of American Idol cynicism every year since Jordin Sparks won, I can’t believe that America (you!) got things right this time. Was there a “no Bieber-no Bieber-no Bieber” filter in the voting system? Did Ryan Seacrest see another pile of ashes flying at him? Did the Mayans arrive early? No, what we have in store is shaping up to be a real competition for the first time in years, and Lord knows the show needs it. A level playing field of dreams for the masses. Let’s skip the “melting faces” of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez and get down to brass tacks shall we? The top 13 are as follows…
Phillip Phillips-Okay, Phillips has been a shoe-in for the top 12, 13 from his first audition, however I see another Dave Matthews knock-off, Lee DeWyze contestant in the making. Thus, I’m not sure how far he will go…the votes have made it clear, America is only interested in two types of music: pop and country, the remaining gray area will be tricky for Phillips.
Jessica Sanchez-She is my favorite female so far, she’s 16 and she is a powerhouse of talent…holding her back? Possible vocal cord issues but a friend of mine pointed out she sang sick the other night, thus when she heals, LOOK OUT!
Hollie Cavanagh-I don’t remember her from Hollywood Week, and really, do we honestly want to remember Hollywood Week? Her speaking voice may be weird, but she can sing and she took a risk on ladies’ night, all good, but we’ll see.
Joshua Ledet-He has the top male voice in the competition and he can prove it over the next few weeks, at least we hope he can prove it and bring it! So real and so refreshing.
Heejun Han-Polarizing is the best word to describe Han…personality-wise, he wins my vote, but how far can he go with his “oh well” attitude and jokes? But again, he can sing, an interesting contestant who could hang around for a while.
Shannon Magrane-Well Shannon is the daughter of a former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, she already has my attention, I kid…she was another contestant who took a risk singing Kathy Trocolli’s “Light Your World” which is totally random, but it meant something to her…whey a contestant feels what they are singing, it’s a good sign.
Skylar Laine-or as I’m calling her, “Lil’ Miranda” as in Lambert…I love her energy, she will capture of lot of young votes and even more country votes…forget Lauren Alaina, Skylar is already catching fire in a big way…she’s a young one, but she’s a firecracker!
Elise Testone-If Sanchez is the one to beat, Testone could do it, but she has to avoid that gray area…her Adele cover was great, I can’t wait to see what else she can do.
Colton Dixon-The guy from Murfreesboro, the guy who couldn’t break through to the top 24 last year, the guy whose sister didn’t make it through, he has a multitude to prove…in all honesty, I’m not a fan…he’s not dynamic enough, and he might fall into that gray area category, he could get lost fast, but we’ll see.
Jermaine Jones-Mama’s boy, lucky 13 when the guys performed…I like him, and I can’t get his “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” duet with Curtis Law (didn’t like him!) from Vegas out of my head, that’s a good thing…he’s older, but he can compete.
The Wild Cards:
Erika Van Pelt-I really like her soulful voice…this DJ is a force to be reckoned with, that is if she can just pull out more from within…older, but she will rock it out. 
Jeremy Rosado-Young and big, he has the potential to be a true dark horse…he has soul and soul works every time.
 Deandre Brackensick-He’s perhaps another polarizing contestant…and he just missed the top 24 last year…I liked his Vegas group performance, but I never saw him during Hollywood Week or his original audition…I hate when we’re left in the dark…I like his falsetto, but he’ll need to be careful how much he relies on it.
American Idol will be good this year? Yes? Maybe? I pray so, the talent is there, let her/him rip!

The Change I Would Make To American Idol

(A bathrobe J-Lo? Really?)
Like the virus that contaminated numerous contestants this season, I keep coming back for more American Idol. I know, every season since at least three seasons ago, I keep saying I’ll never watch it again, who am I kidding? I think the real reason I keep foolishly tuning in is because the show has become a train wreck and who can turn away from a train wreck. The whole “patient zero” (don’t even get me started on that!) situation last week and part of this week I thought would be my last straw. The show, basically, still has some talent, but if they only focused on the sick people last week and no singing? There’s a problem.
However, as I was watching last night, I had a epiphany. I know what would make the show better: lower the audition cut off age. Looking back at the humble beginnings of the show, the ages to audition for the first three seasons was 16-24, guess what? It should have NEVER been changed. In season 4, the cut off age was raised to 28, which blessed us with Bo Bice, Constantine Maroulis, Chris Daughtry, and God have mercy on us…season 6 winner, Taylor Hicks. In short, the older contestants/finalists are not living up to their full potential in the world of Idol. Last season, the younger end of the audtion age scale was lowered to 15, and although I think that’s too young to try and break into the business, I generally don’t have a problem with it. Last season’s winner, Scotty McCreery was 17 and he has since been able to: have a debut album debut at number one and as of last month, his debut album has sold a million copies. Sure, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers may have faded, but hello? Justin Bieber is almost 18 and he’s a global superstar. Taylor Hicks, Lee DeWyze, and Kris Allen are NOT global superstars, and they really never had a chance.
In season 11, the case for lowering the higher end of the audition ages could be found in Indianapois cop and bully, 27-year-old Alisha Bernhardt. No wonder no one wanted her in their group, she made Tent Girl aka “Patient Zero” Amy Brumfield actually look good. Here are Bernhardt’s “Road to Hollywood” ramblings:
http://www.americanidol.com/swf/videoPlayer/widget/v2r1/Widget.swf
In the end, her group suffered from a sick guy, and a song, Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” that even SHE couldn’t remember the words to. To put it another way, she sucked! And mostly because she gave up and she had a shitty attitude. I’m not bashing older contestants, hey I’m 36, but I think another singing competition may serve them better; either my personal favorite The Voice or what will be a revamped The X-Factor.
So if any American Idol fans, judges, host, or producers are reading this, see if we can make the original auditioning ages happen, well, let’s say 15-24. Thanks!

The Smash Review I Didn’t Want To Write

(Hey! Don’t hang yourself! Courtesy of seriesadictos.com)
There are only so many series that land the coveted “after the Super Bowl” slot. Okay, NBC’s Smash didn’t, but it might as well have. Smash is relying on The Voice viewers to stick around on Monday nights, since it’s all music and singing, and I fell for it. However, I did not watch the pilot until this afternoon, two days after it aired. You know when your DVR gets so full and you don’t know if you’ll ever get caught up so you start making “Sophie’s Choice” with certain shows? That’s how I felt at first about Smash. I kept thinking, “well, I’ll save it for the weekend”, and, on most weekends I’m not even in the vicinity of my TV. I read the other reviews, which were surprisingly good and I didn’t expect that. I thought the whole “GLEE for adults” tag line was a total joke. I also was under the impression when I heard about the show, I thought it was going to be a 21st century FAME. No, so I was still teetering on the brink of “should I or shouldn’t I watch” ledge. But since I’m a sucker for a good musical or musical show, thanks to all the other shows I just mentioned, I gave in.
The premise of Smash is pretty simple. Two musical writers, played by old NBC fav Debra Messing and Tony-nominated Chris Borle, decide to try and come up with a new show. However, Julia/Messing swore to her husband and son she was going to take a break. Then Tom/Borle’s assistant, played by Jamie Cepero, suggests Marilyn Monroe should be the duo’s new muse. They write a demo, a stage vet they know, Ivy Lynn, played by Broadway’s Megan Hilty, records it, the assistant posts it to YouLenz (clever NBC) and the viral madness begins. Enter producer Eileen Rand played by Anjelica Houston (smart casting, but what about oh, Bernadette Peters???) who wants to produce the show after all of her assets are on their way out the door thanks to an ensuing divorce and director/choreographer Derek Wills played by British actor Jack Davenport; who can resist throwing a Brit into the mix when it’s the theater! Tom has conflict with Derek and Julia still isn’t sure until she reads the reviews of the demo. 
Thus, onto casting “Marilyn” and here’s where the predictability kicks in. American Idol season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee plays Karen, the “typical actress/singer trying to make it in NYC-she left Iowa- but she works as a waitress” character. I can’t tell you how much I cannot stand McPhee, especially after her flaky rendition of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” on Idol, UGH! Since then, McPhee has released music and has been acting here and there, and I suppose Smash is the perfect vehicle for her “hey remember me?” campaign. In short, Ivy and Karen are competing for the lead in the Marilyn musical and we find out in the second episode next week just who that will be…or will we?
 (Did Marilyn ever cut a bitch? Courtesy of playbill.com)
Personally, I want to see Ivy get the part, she embodies Marilyn and Karen is just too damn skinny, but the creative team love her. Tom wants Ivy because she’s a vet and she can pull it off. The big shots, including the pervy director want Karen, you can see where this is going, so I’m still on the fence with Smash, but I don’t dislike it. 
Smash airs Monday nights after The Voice at 10E/9C on NBC. 

Okay X Factor, We’re Not Stupid!: A Commentary

I only saw a little bit of this week’s show and I totally missed the results show, however, when I did the math this afternoon, the finals are almost guaranteed to be Simon vs. L.A.  And that’s exactly what the two judges/mentors/record exes–and producers– wanted.  We all know Paula Abdul’s “groups” didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the finals, so Lakoda Rayne had to go.  Frankly, I give Nicole Scherzinger credit, Josh Krajcik has the best chance of schooling the big guys’ stars in the competition (sorry LeRoy Bell, you were too milquetoast) and unless one of Simon’s or LA’s frontrunners stumble (We’re all looking at you ASTRO!) Krajcik is next in line to go.  It makes me wonder how accurate the voting is.  Sure, America trusts Cowell, and it’s no surprise all three of his “girls” are still in the running to win. If one of them DOESN’T win, it will certainly be a shock.  And I don’t see Marcus Canty or Chris Rene winning, so Astro, despite the attitude/headphone controversy is all LA’s got and I think he knows it.  Astro could be the next Justin Bieber, whom Reid mentored and signed. 
As far the other contestants, and I include all three of Simon’s, I don’t see a “next” somebody.  It’s safe to say Rachel Crow will go on to an acting career with or without a $5 million dollar contract, Drew? I don’t know, and Melanie Amaro is still my favorite and she could be the next I’m not sure.  I still see Amaro as very tenative, not diva-like at all.  LA has a challenge in Canty and Rene; both are good, but they are not good enough to win, so does Reid really care? No.  I hope Cowell doesn’t suffer the American Idol curse when the winner goes nowhere. Remember Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, the 2 finalists in Cowell’s last year on Idol? DeWyze was dropped from his label and Bowersox quit to go back the “independent” way of doing things.  I bet they wish they were Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina right about now.  Josh Krajcik is about to be set up for a harsh reality, starting a career over 30 is not the best scenario.  Don’t even make me pull the Susan Boyle card!  UGH!  That’s not a career, that’s a passing fad and if she still succeeds in England, great.  It’s just very difficult for anyone, any age to break into the music business in the 21st century.  I would love to see just once, a singer or a band get signed the way all artists used to be signed, through hard work and dedication and a little creativity.  Lady Gaga is the best example of an artist who paid her dues and she is now one of the biggest pop stars in the world, maybe, of all time. Okay, I won’t go nuts, but there’s my point.  A person can be discovered and be mentored, but is it worth $5 million bucks? 
 (Kadeem Hardison should sue!/tv.com)

Adam Lambert Debuts New Song in Quebec!

It’s been about a minute since I blogged about my beloved Glambert; and he’s been hard at work on a new album which I’m hoping will be released by the end of the year.  The only news I’ve read recently about Lambert is that he was the 3rd highest earning (ex) American Idol competitor, not bad at all and yes, he out-earned Kris Allen, duh!  
The following clip comes from the land of Canada, the mostly French-speaking Quebec to be specific.  So, you’ll hear a lot of Francais rumblings while Lambert is singing.  And I love when Lambert says it’s a new song, “I know I’ll see it on YouTube”, yes honey you will!
See what you think of “Outlaws of Love”

And The Paula Puzzle Piece Fits!

Negotiations went down to the wire, but Paula Abdul will re-join Simon Cowell this fall for Fox’s American version of The X-Factor.  Abdul rounds out the judging panel of Cowell, former Island Def Jam label head/Grammy-winning producer L.A. Reid, and British version judge, Cheryl Cole.  The show finally has announced their hosts as well, former Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger, and British TV host, Steve Jones. 
So what does this all mean?  Nothing really.  Although I do think the final nail in the American Idol coffin may be complete.  The Voice, of course, is outstanding, and who knows what The X-Factor will really be like, but for sure, viewers will be drawn back to the chemistry of Cowell and Abdul.  Seriously, I’ve missed the crazy and I’m still sad Live to Dance didn’t work out for Paula; it ended being too much like the other reality competition shows, totally boring and Fox just does a better job with So You Think You Can Dance? 
Yes, welcome back!…I can’t wait.

My Two Cents: Haley Taking On "You and I"

I don’t know where to start.  Well, first of all, Lady GaGa’s songs aren’t exactly Idol fare, why?  They are complex and they should NEVER ever be sung without Mother Monster’s permission.  Sure, Jimmy Iovine is the head of Universal Records, which GaGa is on the Interscope imprint, Streamline, but I think the big mentor this season dropped the ball in letting Haley sing a GaGa song which is still considered “unreleased” although GaGa herself has been performing it in concert and on TV for several months. Exhibit A:
See, no one else should be singing it, especially an Idol contestant, whom I think could go a little further in the competition, and hell, Haley may win, or at least place 2nd, but hands off Lady GaGa, no matter what Iovine says just because he has access to one of his artists.  That’s the way things are looking right now.  And it’s totally ridiculous; Haley’s voice is not unique and if I hear one of the judges compare her to Janis Joplin again, I’ll puke!  And I was livid when Haley sang Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, however, she didn’t screw it up too bad.  I was searching around on Twitter this morning, and Ms. Reinhart has quite the following, which all the contestants do, but each of them also has several fans who’ve created accounts and each of them begs for you to vote for Haley, Lauren, James, Scotty, and yes, Jacob too.  
I have to say I’ve really been won over by The Voice and I’m counting down the days ’til the American version of Simon Cowell’s other brainchild, The X-Factor premieres in the fall.  It was just announced today, British version judge and Girls Aloud member, Cheryl Cole will indeed join the American judging panel along with Cowell, L.A. Reid, and another judge (please Paula Abdul!) to be named perhaps by tomorrow.  To be continued…

My Two Cents: Rebecca Black’s "Friday"

Oh why the hell not?  I’ve been wrapped up in this dumbfounding phenomenon since yesterday, so I might as well throw in.  I will spare you the torture of posting the video–which is what I’m pretty sure they show in-flight to Libya.  It has a “Take on Me” meets Tom Goes to the Mayor (FYI, on Adult Swim weeknights at 12:15pm-Central) meets Justin Bieber meets LFO…oh, I could go on and on.  Rebecca Black is a product of this the Ark Music Factory, which is based out of LA and as you scan the site, it looks like a breeding ground for post-child beauty pageant contestants and for artists who want to fast-track it past American Idol. The main argument being made by 90 percent of America is this is the worst song and possibly the worst music video ever made.  I agree 100 percent!  But if it’s a song pre-teen Team Edward gals want to jam to, there’s nothing wrong with that.  I personally think this record company is playing a mega-million dollar joke on the music industry; okay, Lonely Island and/or Ashton Kutcher, you can come out from behind the curtain.  I’m sure Ark Music Factory didn’t expect “Friday” to get 3 million hits on YouTube; you’re welcome.  I just don’t know how Simon Cowell hasn’t swooped her up; oh yeah, April Fools is not quite here yet….
GEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

I Pick You?

You may have noticed during the Super Bowl, the first promos ran for the American version of The X-Factor…it’s very dramatic, yet simple:
Cowell is upping the ante with the prize for X-Factor; a $5 million record contract for the winner!  Wow!  I’m guessing several Idol winners would have appreciated that kind of bread.  You know the ones I’m talking about, Taylor Hicks, Reuben Studdard, Kris Allen, etc.  Geez!  Not only is Cowell feeding the piggy, he’s also considering Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, British version judge Cheryl Cole, and…one Paula Abdul as judges.  By the way, is anyone really watching Live to Dance?  Cowell is very clever in possibly bringing back Abdul for a whole new show.  American Idol is doing fine without him, and he’s said, although he hasn’t watched a whole episode, he’s pleased with what he’s seen.  Right.  NOTE: I may blog about Idol once the finalists are set.  I just fear too many golden tickets have been passed out this time.  J-Lo is WAY too much of a pushover and Tyler? well, he’s been the wildcard for sure and that’s what he’s supposed to be.  I’m a little scared for him when the live shows start; Seacrest will need to learn to work a delay button.  I can see it now, a button with Tyler’s face on it, it just might happen.
As for auditions for The X-Factor,  they begin March 27 in LA.  Idol’s Hollywood rounds begin airing tonight….lots of weeding out to do.

Okay, I Owe DioGuardi One…

All right, you may recall in a previous blog, I posted a video of Kara DioGuardi singing a song she co-wrote for Pink, “Sober”, at a charity event; at the time, I blasted her, and I think only because Pink just does a much better job; I think it’s definitely now one of her signature songs.  I was also very weary of not only DioGuardi, but the whole idea of American Idol.  I received more comments on the blog than ever before, unfortately, they were all critical of my mocking DioGuardi, and mostly because the performance was at a charity event.  I figure I was in an extremely cynical mood that day and I deserved the comments.
But now, I’m making it up to those who dissed me and I’m making it up to Kara herself.  “Mama’s Song” is Carrie Underwood’s latest single; and it was co-written by DioGuardi and Marti Frederikson, whose songwriting resume is not too shabby.  DioGuardi has already scored a co-writing number one with Underwood, “Undo It”, not to mention, Underwood’s album, Play On, has been nominated for Album of the Year at the Country Music Assoc. awards.  “Mama’s Song” is climbing the charts and I would say DioGuardi may just hit the top again.  I work in country radio and I was curious as to if DioGuardi co-wrote “Mama’s Song”; I went to her website and when you hit the front page, a video of DioGuardi and co-writer Frederikson is posted of the two composers discussing how the song came to be, then they perform it.  And, I like it, here it is: