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. 

Will The Real Stacy Francis Please Stand Up?

This is how we, the unassuming public, were introduced to Stacy Francis on The X-Factor.  Francis claimed to be a 42-year-old single mom who had never been given a chance.  Not so fast whoever you are!  What the streaming tears and the runnning mascara covered up was a singer with quite a diverse and a substantial resume’ in the music business prior to stepping on that stage to land a spot in X-Factor Boot Camp, then land an invitation to be part of the “over 30s” category, and now, she has landed in the finals which officially start tomorrow night. 
Okay, is Stacy Francis the first person to enter a competition and not be honest about her past? No, but it seems everyday lately, a new story surfaces about Francis’ real career path.  I see a bit of a double-standard in Francis’ situation.  Both Javier Colon, who won the first season of The Voice and fellow finalist Dia Frampton both had had record deals prior to the competition, yet the press is continuously crucifying Francis for her past gigs.  Is it because Simon Cowell is involved?  Is it because there is so much at stake? As you are aware, the winner of The X-Factor will receive a $5 million recording contract.  And surely, Francis has never been paid that much money in her professional career, but still, for someone else, like Melanie Amaro for example, this may or may not be her chance of a lifetime. 
So, here is a list of Stacy Francis’ gigs:  she was a member of 90’s R&B girl group, Ex-Girlfriend (I don’t remember them), Francis has done both Broadway and West End musicals (both Footloose and Dreamgirls have been confirmed), the weird one: she was asked to perform at Tom Cruise’s birthday party in 2004, and the fresh rumors allude to Francis may or may not have performed with Whitney Houston, Madonna, Chaka Khan (probably true), and Madonna. 
I’m not sure how upset we should be about this.  I’m a little deceived, but in reality, now that all of this has come out, and since there are more talented folks in the competition, Francis probably won’t win.  The pressure on her to come clean is increasing everyday, it will be interesting to see what factoids will be revealed next.  She probably has a SAG card, so hell, what else can fall out of her closet?  Just stay online and you’ll find something.

Handicapping The Voice Final Four

The finals are set for the inaugural season of NBC’s The Voice and really, there are no surprises; I guess Team Cee-Lo’s representative Vicci Martinez barely beating out Nakia was the only mild surprise, and yeah, I was hoping Frenchie Davis could pull out the victory over Beverly McClellan, but McClellan was too strong and she deserves to be in the finals.  
That said, let’s take a look at the finalists:
Team Blake-Dia Frampton
 Okay, yes, Dia has been able to score the highest sales figures on iTunes with each passing week (downloads count as votes on The Voice, something another singing competition show should consider), she has the youth factor AND guess what, she was once part of a major-label act, Meg and Dia.  OMG, I’ve heard of them, but I don’t think I ever heard their music; plus Frampton has several YouTube performance videos out there, so her momentum is very good for the win.  I’m not sure she has the best voice in the competition, but she has a very eclectic style; she’s not your typical pop singer…always a win in my book. 
Team Adam-Javier Colon
I admit when I first heard Colon’s rendition of “Time After Time” in the blind audition rounds, it brought tears to my eyes, really.  His soulfulness made Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 hit seem so fresh and so moving.  If Frampton doesn’t pull off the upset, Colon is the winner.  He had a record contract at one time, he released two albums with no success on Capitol and he was also a member/vocalist for The Derek Trucks Band.  So he has the experience in the grind of writing, producing, touring, and promoting music for a living.  In my opinion, he has the best shot at becoming a commercial success.  Who knows.
Team Cee-Lo-Vicci Martinez
Seattle’s Vicci Martinez is my dark horse in the finals.  However, I don’t think she has the best voice, she has the performance ability and the personality.  Oh, and she’s one of two out contestants in the finals, check!  I wasn’t sure she would make it past the blind auditions; if you recall, even the tv audience didn’t get to see Martinez until the coaches’ chairs started swinging around.  She took on “Rolling in the Deep” with much fearlessness and it was okay; I just wasn’t sure, but now, she has a shot.  Martinez has released several independent albums and she has opened up for major artists like Annie Lennox, Avril Lavigne, Jonny Lang, and, Christoper Cross?!?  Feisty!
Team Christina-Beverly McClellan
(Here looking like Linda Perry in her 4-Non Blondes days) 
Beverly McClellan can also win, but is she commercial enough?  She has so much raw talent and her voice, it’s bluesy, it’s rock n roll, it’s ballsy!  I’m sure at this point, McClellan has the “fan favorite” moniker taken and quite appropriately.  Being the other out competitor hasn’t stopped her and she has nothing to prove.  She’s done it!  McClellan has also gone the route of independence in getting her music out there.  Can she pull off the upset?  Maybe.
So there you have four very able artists ready to take over the world, but which one will?  Final live performances next Tues. night and the winner will be announced live next Wed.  Again, the winner of The Voice will receive $100,000 and a recording contract with Universal Republic.  WATCH IT!

 

Rebecca Black’s Doppleganger?

If you think I’m going to put you through the torture of listening to and watching “Friday”, you are wrong!  Instead, I want to introduce to whom I’m pretty sure is Rebecca Black’s doppleganger, 16-year-old Raquel Castro.
 Castro is currently competing on NBC’s The Voice and I don’t remember her from the blind auditions, but I swear, when I saw her on this week’s battle rounds, I couldn’t believe how much she resembles Black.  And I also didn’t know Castro played Jennifer Lopez’s daughter in the 2004 stinkeroo Jersey Girl.  She is now 16 and I won’t spoil the results for you, but she will continue on The Voice as part of Christina Aguilera’s team.  Wait, I just spoiled, excuse me.  For the life of me, I can’t remember how to display images side by side, but here’s Black.
 It’s frightening!  However, when you see Castro, you’ll notice she is very tiny which leads me to believe she could also pass for:
 Yes, Olympic gymnastic gold-medalist, Dominique Moceanu.  So weird!  Here’s Castro winning round versus Julia Eason and I hate to say it, but this battle was underwhelming, but Castro definitely had the edge…she’s so damn short!

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…

The Voice Rocks And Look Who’s There!

Where do I begin?  Today is day number four for possible severe weather where I live; yesterday, a tornado rushed through just north of my hometown, and then when I returned home from work around 9:30 last night, surrounding areas were under the gun yet again.  To make a long story short, my NBC affiliate had to deliver this important weather information, 30 minutes into the premiere of The Voice, thus taking up the remaining programming time.  So I saw the first few, but just after the weather coverage broke in, a familiar face graced the stage: FRENCHIE DAVIS!!!!  (I watched all of the premiere online)  I thought I saw her in a long shot going into a rehearsal space, but I was like “nah, that’s not Frenchie”, it was!!!  I could not believe it when I found her performance clip earlier today.  We all know what became of Frenchie; she was disqualified from season 2 of American Idol after an internet porn scandal popped up, but then she went on to star in RENT on Broadway, so she hasn’t suffered, but she is now in the position to really make something happen on The Voice.  
Now, onto this bald-headed beauty.  Beverly McClellan has been making music and albums for years now; and yes, she’s a big fixture in the LGBT community.  Side note, one other out lesbian, Vicci Martinez, also made the cut.  That’s what’s wrong with Idol, not enough lebanese!  (Props to last night’s GLEE!)–McClellan is high-energy to the nth degree, and I predict she will do well; and this may sound a little morbid, but when I was watching McClellan’s performance of “Piece of My Heart”, I flashed back to the 2005 Grammys when Melissa Etheridge, bald from chemotherapy, rocked the same song in a tribute to Janis Joplin.  Eerie, but that’s where my mind went.  Now how is Xtina doing so far on the show?  Great; she seemed to be the first one turning around everytime and she was extremely catty with Adam Levine, who I thought would never get a team member.  One other note, when Blake Shelton finally turned around to see Beverly, I got the sense he was a little scared; he said something like “…I don’t want you that mad at me…”  I’m still on the fence about how I feel about Shelton, the guy I saw at P.F. Chang’s in Nashville.  He’s tall.

Can’t Hold Her Down

I guess to say 2011 for Christina Aguilera has not been smooth so far is a giant understatement.  Although now, if I think about it, 2010 wasn’t too good either.  Let’s review; her Bionic album failed so miserably, a tour to support it was completely scrapped, then, she got separated and eventually divorced from her husband of five years, Jordan Bratman, oh and a little movie called Burlesque came out in November (it’s on DVD now!) and Aguilera’s acting  was critically skewered–though I must say Cher made a mini-comeback and the movie won songwriter Diane Warren a Golden Globe for Cher’s ballad, “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me”.   Unfortunately, Warren did not receive an Oscar nomination, and there’s old Randy Newman up there winning again.  Okay, back to Xtina. I guess that little National Anthem at the Super Bowl debacle is next..wow!  Just a week later, Aguilera appeared on-stage at the Grammys for an Aretha Franklin tribute and wouldn’t you know, she tripped right as the performance ended.
Just yesterday, Xtina and her current boyfriend, Matthew Rutler, were arrested on suspicion of DUI and public intoxication.  My first thought?  She’s ever so slowly turning into another tragic pop star a la Courtney Love.  No formal charges have been filed and Aguilera made bail.  At this point, her ex-husband could seek full custody of the couple’s 2-year-old son Max.  Yeah, it was all going down hill pretty fast until the announcement today, Xtina would be joining the NBC reality singing competition, The Voice, as a vocal coach and judge along with Cee-Lo Green and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine; Carson Daly will be hosting when the show debuts next month. 
Aguilera is a powerful singer and I’m sure she’s just a tad bit side-tracked, but can she regain her glory and more importantly, her credibility?  It remains to be seen, I just hope she can make The Voice work.