Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The curse of going first

The lead-off spot claimed it's first victim this year.

Lisa, who has been on the chopping block before and has really been in danger since the semi-finals started, not only hit the bottom 3 (again), but she got whacked after leading the show off.

I can't say I'm surprised. She's a pretty good singer and a reasonably good performer. Her problems have been 1) song choices and 2) no fan base.

Lisa is one of those contestants who is just kind of there. She has been outshined by some of the other contestants, given less face time than some and that leads to splitting votes.

The big beneficiaries of Lisa's elimination are Sergeant Hooks and ABM, both of whom appeal to the younger set.

I was not surprised to see Ace in the bottom 3. He has been just plain bad for a while now and his good looks are not cutting it any more. VCM's appearance on the stage was kind of a surprise for me, but she is another one who is struggling to find an audience (Elliott, too).

When Seacrest started calling the names of the folks on the front row, I knew they were safe. After all, Mandisa, Chris, Taylor, Kellie and Paris are Fox's TCOs, and there is no way they were going home.

Elliott got a reprieve this week after being handed the pimp spot this week and Bucky continues to skate by on the country and underdog votes.

If Lisa had been on the show last year, I think she could have gone far, but given the competition this year, she was destined to be among the first to go. At least she'll get to go on the tour.

A couple other thoughts on the show:

Is it just me or did Kellie change her hair and appearance to look more like Carrie?

Do you think they got rid of the group sings for good?

I'm happy they at least showed all of Lisa's farewell performance. I hate it when they stretch out the manufactured drama and cut off the eliminated performer mid-song.

To recap:

The lead-off spot: 2 of 3 in the bottom 3, one elimination
The Pimp Spot: 0 for 3 in the bottom 3

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yawn

Was it just me or did the rest of you feel like the first half of the show was sponsored by Lunesta?

With the final 10 falling into a definite pecking order, they got to choose any song Fox/19 TV could get the rights to that was recorded after the year 2000 (which was the last year of the 20th Century, not the first year of the 21st Century; I'm a math geek, don't argue with me).

Overall, I would say the first part of the show was downright boring and the last three performers only barely salvaged the entire thing.

Going in the dreaded lead-off spot is the new Queen of the Bottom 3, Lisa. When Seacrest said she was going first I groaned. When Seacrest said she would be singing Kelly Clarkson, my heart sank because that surely spelled Lisa's doom. She wasn't bad, but she wasn't good or outstanding either. And she was going first. Lisa will definitely be in the bottom 3 this week and might even end up going home.
Flash Judgement: 6½/10

ABM came out in the 2-hole singing Sara Evans, whom I like very much, and singing a song which I am ashamed to admit that I like. It's catchy and fun, if a little vapid and stupid. Kellie was simply horrible. Her timing was off (slow) and pitchy made its first appearance of the night. Lisa may be lacking many things as an American Idol contestant, but at least she's in tune. Kellie has no such talent.
Flash Judgement: 6/10

Whoever filled out the line-up cards must either be tone deaf or didn't watch any of the rehearsals because Ace was next and he was also bad. Not awful, but forgettable. And what's with the scar, Ace? Are you trying to follow Tracheotomy Boy's game plan? If so, all you had to do was sing a power ballad, not show us your chest.
Flash Judgement: 6½/10

Raise your hand if you knew the song Dances Like Spaz sang. If your hand is up and you're not related by blood, marriage or court order to the person who wrote or recorded it, you're lying. I thought he was okay and he at least had the good sense to pick a song no one knew in case he butchered it.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

I think the top tier contestants may be sandbagging this week. I think they're all afraid of pulling an Ace and peaking too early. Mandisa was also okay, but she too picked a song nobody knew which either means she was flying by the seat of her pants or that she's counting on her fans to powervote her through despite an underwhelming performance.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

Before singing, Chris gets a sit-down with Seacrest to acknowledge Live as the source of his cover for last week. I think he, too, is sandbagging. If he's not, he needs to start picking songs other than the ones that angst-ridden white guys would pick. He has shown very little versatility over the last few weeks and I think that needs to change.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

The judges liked VCM much more than I did. Her voice was flat through the entire song. Frankly, I was bored. After Mandisa hitting the big notes and Chris shouting, Katharine was something of a letdown, especially after she had spent the past couple of weeks building some momentum.
Flash Judgement: 7/10

He is definitely not the strongest contestant, but with Bad Hair you know whe you're getting. He was easily the best so far, if only because he didn't reach too much, he wasn't boring as hell and he picked a song that a lot of people know. Plus, the had covered up his hair and the way he held the mic hid his teeth. Now if only we could stop him from playing hot potato with the microphone . . .
Flash Judgement: 8/10

I hate to say it, but Sergeant Hooks was very entertaining. At least she was moving on stage. Her vocals weren't Beyonce good, but they weren't bad either. After a night of bad karaoke performances, Paris gave the crowd something to stand up and dance along with. It's too bad she had to talk.
Flash Judgement: 8½/10

Closing us out was [E.T. voice=on]ell-E-ott[/E.T. voice] in the pimp spot. I'm not a big fan of the song, but I think Elliott grabbed a few votes away from Ace this week. Girls who are enamoured by Ace's hawt-ness and women who vote with their loins are still going to dial Ace's number, but Elliott brought it on a week where he needed to show up big.
Flash Judgement: 8½/10

I would have thought that with a wide-open chance to pick any song (provided the rights to that song were procured), people would have stepped up. I think some folks were sandbagging, but that still doesn't excuse what was basically an off-week for just about everyone.

The big winners this week were Bucky and Elliott, who needed good showings to stick around. Both got them, and to me that leaves Ace, Kellie and Lisa as the folks who I think are in danger.

A quick recap of my scores for tonight:

ell-E-ott - 8½
Sergeant Hooks - 8½
Bad Hair - 8
Chris - 7½
Dances Like Spaz - 7½
Mandisa - 7½
VCM - 7
Ace - 6½
Lisa - 6½
ABM - 6

Who should be in the bottom 3: ABM, Ace, Lisa
Who will be in the bottom 3: Ace, Bad Hair, Lisa

Who should go home: ABM
Who will go home: Lisa

On the bright side, at least we've had two straight weeks without the AFE.

That's it for me. High Lord. Out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Watch that first step! It's a doozy!

We finally did it. We cut one of the cords in our lives.

Our current cell phone provider is AT&T Wireless/Cingular. Overall, I have been very happy with them, but recently, we have been looking at making some changes to our plan and the folks at Cingular are telling us we can't just change to a new rate plan. Rather, we have to get new phones and switch from our legacy AT&T Wireless plan to one of the new Cingular plans, all of which either have fewer minutes or cost more.

A friend of mine (who also started out on AT&T Wireless) had a run-in with Cingular after running over his phone with his truck. He had the insurance but rather than replacing his phone, they told him he'd have to get a new Cingular phone and a new Cingular rate plan. He told Cingular to go to hell (only he wasn't so polite about it) and went over to Nextel.

As a side note, now that everyone has had to switch from AT&T Wireless to Cingular, I have heard (unsubstantiated) rumours that they're soon going to go back to calling themselves AT&T Wireless, and make everyone switch to a new rate plan and jump through all the hoops again. So if you're with Cingular, you might want to watch out for this.

Anyway, Sarah and I went up to the mall on Saturday and talked to the folks at Nextel. I know a couple of people who have Nextel and they don't have any complaints, so we went ahead and switched over. We're paying a little more for our service since we have two lines (but less than one of Cingular's two-line rate plans), but overall, it's costing us less because we're getting rid of our land line.

That's the big step for us. In the past, we have been hesitant to get rid of the land line we don't really need because there are some people who call us once or three times a year and didn't want to just drop our number out of the blue.

When we went to see the folks at Nextel, they told us that number portability not only allows you to take a cell phone number from one company to another, but to also take your land line number. So we're taking our Verizon number with us along with my cell phone number and getting two cell phones as our only voice communication.

I've also heard about some voice chats available on the internet to make long distance phone calls, so we'll probably start using those, too.

We've been talking about taking this step for a while now and we just stepped off. I'm hoping we never go back.

So long, Beth!

Last night on "The Next Food Network Star", one of the blond girls was kicked off. For some reason, they picked two girls who look basically the same to be in the group of 8 finalists and now one of them is gone.

Beth, the girl who went home, was neither the worst chef in the group, nor the worst on TV. I think her only problem is that there was another person who looked just like her and happened to be a better chef.

I think Evette is the weakest chef and I think the judges agree. While tasting one of her dishes last night, someone on the selection committee said that they didn't taste anything distinctive on her plate. Andy is the worst on TV. I think it's his eyes; he just looks sleepy and he's kind of boring.

The person who annoys me the most is Nathan because I think he's arrogant and cocky. I just don't want to like him. For me, Reggie comes in as a big "aiiight" so that basically leaves Guy and Carissa, both of whom have been consistently strong.

I thought for sure that Andy was going home, but when the selection committee said he was safe, I then thought for sure Yvette would get whacked. When Beth was told she would be leaving, I think everyone was surprised, so I hope it put everyone on edge for next week.

In the preview, they showed last year's winners, Dan & Steve, who apparently are not dead and haven't been exiled to TV limboland.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Just Like Me

I have never been moved to tears by a music video. Until yesterday.

In the middle of flipping channels, I came upon MTV and they were actually showing music videos. Sarah McLachlan was singing, but it was a rap song.

It turns out that it was a Darryl McDaniels (DMC from Run-DMC) video, not a Sarah McLachlan video.

I had heard about this project some time ago, but I didn't think it was this close to fruition.

The story behind the video is that when he was working on an autobiography, Darryl (who was in his late 30s at the time) was talking to his mother who told him that he was adopted. This was a total surprise to him and he spent the next couple of years trying to track down his birth mother.

You can go to DMC's website to read more, but the long and the short of it is that he wrote new lyrics to go with the chorus from Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle", got Sarah McLachlan to sing on the track and put out a new tune called "Just Like Me".

I found that you can watch the video on DMC's website and you can check out some of his other videos here.

To go straight to the "Just Like Me" video click here.

Darryl, if by some random chance you stop by this blog:

Thank you.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fire! Fire! Fire!

It seems that the ship I cruised on last October caught on fire. You can read about it here.

Apparently a fire started in a cabin on the port side and spread to other cabins. Up to 100 cabins on four decks were reportedly affected. No cause for the fire was given, although I would guess that either someone shorted out an electrical outlet or they were smoking in their cabin.

When we were on the Star, we passed a room in the 5000 block of the Caribe deck that smelled heavily of marijuana, so I wouldn't be one bit surprised if that turns out to be the ultimate cause. To be fair, it may not have been pot, it could have just been a cigarette.

I saw this first on Headline News and then read the above article at MSNBC. Just for kicks, I checked Princess's website and not surprisingly, there was no metion of the fire. That seems to be par for the course with Princess. We had a hard time getting information out of them regarding Hurricane Wilma, so the fact that they're not even acknowledging it on their website only shows me that they're lacking in the customer service department.

This first photo is a picture of the Star Princess I took while it was docked on Tortola.


The second picture is of the port (left) side of the boat, taken from the MSNBC website.



Another pic of the port side of the ship showing the entire damaged area.



I guess this means lots of folks are going to be getting free/discounted cruises with Princess.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shocker!!!!

Well, I certainly didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

It seems that either the tweenies didn't powervote enough to keep their boy around, or Fox kicked Charlie Brown off just to spite the folks over at Dialidol.com and Vote for the Worst.

I was not shocked that Lisa, Kevin and Bucky were in the bottom 3. Lisa is overpowered by Mandisa, hasn't had the face time of ABM, isn't as good as VCM and splits votes with Sergeant Hooks. Bucky is clearly the worst vocalist in the competition, and he's probably the worst vocalist to have made the top 10/12. However, he does pick up a lot of underdog votes and I think he's a genuinely likeable guy. That said, he should have been the first one eliminated from this year's finalists.

Kevin wasn't my favourite singer, but I thought he brought an element of fun to the show and he was great because he does't take himself too seriously.

The underlying subtext of Kevin's ouster is that everyone is vulnerable. Not only was he a fan favourite, but he had the vote for the worst crowd backing him. If the other contestants are smart, no matter how secure they think they might be, they'll step up their game from here on out because if fan rabidity is any indicator, Kevin should have lasted at least two or three more weeks.

With the little round-headed kid gone, I see the big beneficiaries being Paris and Lisa (in that order). I think the tweens are going to stick with the younger contestants and Lisa has an opportunity to make up some ground. After two trips to the bottom 3, she may need to call Suzie McNeill and see if she can borrow her "Queen of the Bottom Three" hat.

Seacrest said the theme for next week is "songs of the 21st Century", whatever the hell that means.

At least we didn't have to endure a group sing and as a bonus, we got a quick shot of Kimberly Caldwell; she must hate her hair now because whatever it is she did to it makes me wonder if she should be stripped of the title "Hottest Person to Make the American Idol Finals".

So far the tally this year is:

Lead-off: 50% to make the bottom 3
Pimp Spot: 100% safe

Money refunded by the High Lord for his predictions: $0

Someone check the fountain to see if DJ Slim is dancing naked in it.

High Lord. Out.

Who's to blame?

Paula Abdul blames Simon Cowell for her goofy comments.

I blame the rum that's mixed with the Coke in their cups or the pills she must be popping. Seriously . . . have you guys listened to some of the things she's said this year? 100% loopy.

And how about her giggling and laughing on the elimination nights. Either she's high or she's a serious whack job (I'm leaning towards "high").

A lot of folks are wondering why American Idol kept her around. Aside from being entertaining to watch, her value as a judge is negligible. Her "criticism" is rarely critical or objective and she has done little this year besides tell people that they look great and that Simon is a jackass when, in fact, if she would let him speak, he's actually offering a critique that's about 80% right.

Why can't we replace her? Barry would be a good choice, but that would make it a sausagefest at the judges table. How about Deborah "Don't Call Me Debbie" Gibson? She's smart, successful, articulate and not (to the best of my knowledge) on drugs. Gladys Knight was also good when she was a guest judge and Brandy was okay, too.

Please, please, please! Either get Paula off the meds or replace her.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

50s Night

Oh, dear God, FRC isn't even on the show this year and we can't go a show without an eyeboink.

On the bright side, we also had a Jasmine and Lindsey sighting, too.

When Seacrest said the show was going to be two hours, all I could do is groan. Forty minutes of singing and an eternity of product placement, random banal oubursts from Paula, and other filler. Do you think we could talk Fox into replacing Seacrest with super-hot ├╝ber-MILF Brooke Burke from Rock Star: INXS? At least the 7 year old Ace fangirl was cute.

I'm also happy to report that the AFE was no where to be seen (maybe that was because the power ballad wasn't invented until the last 60s).

Opening in the dreaded lead-off spot was Mandisa who showed up with a baseball bat and a bottle o' whoopass. She was very, very strong and showed off that she is the best vocalist in the competition. She went a little sharp on the end note, but other than that was great.
Flash Judgement: 9/10

Next up was Bad Hair, who continued his streak of good song choices. He knows he's a weak vocalist but covers it by not picking songs that will force him into situations his voice can't deliver and with his "I'm just happy to be here" face. I wish he would get the country out of his voice and that thing he does where he switches hands on the microphone bugs me, but his overall performance wasn't as bad as I expected.
Flash Judgement: 7/10

Have I mentioned how I wish Sergeant Hooks would only sing and not talk? Her performance was strong, but I still don't care for her. She, too, knows what her voice is capable of and she delivers in spades.
Flash Judgement: 8/10

I was not impressed by Chris this week. I think he may have been sandbagging. One thing I do like about him is that he has taken a cue from the J.D. Fortune playbook and is presenting a new spin on a lot of songs and that makes him stand out. I just wish he would try another act besides the brooding, angry white guy thing. He qualifies with a big "aiight" from me this week.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

The biggest surprise for me was VCM who was on her game tonight. I thought she was the second strongest of the night (so far) and has shaken some of her iffy song choices. For a moment, I could see her playing the role of Gypsy Rose in the movie or on stage.
Flash Judgement: 8½/10

Now that Randy has started calling Taylor by his Indian Guides name "Silver Fox", I might begin referring to him as "Dances Like Spaz" from now on. He was another "aiight" for me this week. I think, like Chris, Taylor is sandbagging because he can. Both guys have Fox's blessing as TCOs and their legions of fans are sure to keep them around. As a result, I think they're holding back.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

Lisa was good, but forgettable. Her problem is that she is overpowered by Mandisa, is not as technical as Katharine and she's splitting votes with Paris. I would look for her to be in the bottom 3 again this week because I don't think she's found a fan base. Having said that, I liked her performance, but it didn't inspire me to run out and vote for her. I thought it was about on the same level as Taylor and Chris, but unfortunately, she doesn't have their fanbases to keep her in the game.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

In a subdued performance, Charlie Brown showed off some good, but not great vocals, didn't beat us over the head with his cuteness and just sang. It was better than "aiight" for me, but maybe because of the song choice, didn't seem that memorable. I don't think he's in any danger to be eliminated, but he needs to do better in order to wrap up voters who may not already either love him or hate him.
Flash Judgement: 8/10

[E.T voice=on]ell-E-ott[/E.T. voice] is another guy who I think is searching for a fanbase. His vocals were excellent and he weathered the key changes well. I don't think he'll be in the bottom 3 this week, but unless he can pick up voters (and fast!), I don't think he'll make it to the halfway point.
Flash Judgement: 8/10

Like with Paris, I wince when ABM talks. I think her country bumpkin act is just that, but she may really be a ditzy blonde. At least Carrie could put together a coherent sentence (and by they way, she could sing, too). Kellie's singing was good, but her performance struck me as being a little bit trampy, but then again, the song is about a woman lookin' for love.
Flash Judgement: 8/10

In the pimp spot was 7 year old Sammie's favourite performer, Ace. Aside from the unnecessary falsetto at the end, I actually thought he was pretty good. I think his trip to the bottom 3 last week may motivate his fans this week. He's got all the girls and ace-curious guys already, but I think he might have picked up a few other votes this week, too. Going last didn't hurt him, either.
Flash Judgement: 8/10

Overall, I think most of the performances this week were strong. It's a credit to the remaining contestants that the field is so deep this year.

To recap my scores for the week:

Mandisa - 9
VCM - 8½
ABM - 8
Ace - 8
Charlie Brown - 8
ell-E-ott - 8
Sergeant Hooks - 8
Chris - 7½
Dances Like Spaz - 7½
Lisa - 7½
Bad Hair -7

Who should be in the bottom 3: Bucky, Lisa, Taylor
Who will be in the bottom 3: Bucky, Elliott, Lisa

Who should go home this week: Bucky
Who will go home this week: Lisa

Although they're certainly safe for now, Chris and Taylor need to stop sliding by on cruise control pretty soon. I think there are a handful of contestants who are out for blood (Mandisa, Katharine, Paris) and if the two guys aren't careful, they might find that the momentum has shifted and they're in for a fight at the end.

That's my take. Let me hear yours.

High Lord. Out.

The Next Food Network Star 2

The Food Network kicked off the second season of their reality show. Eight competitors were brought in with one of them guaranteed their own TV show. I only hope that whoever wins this year get a better deal than Dan and Steve from last year. Those two guys got their own show, but were exiled to Sunday mornings at 9 am.

Two episodes were aired Sunday night. The eight contestants include an Asian girl, a Latina, a black guy, three white guys and two white girls. I find it hard to believe that these eight were the best that Food Network could find.

Some of them are self-taught cooks, and while that shouldn't be the kiss of death, if I'm watching a cooking show, I'd like for the host to know how to filet a fish or cut up veggies (which some of the contestants did not know how to do).

Jess, the Vietnamese girl, was eliminated in the second show and she was a weak contestant. One thing that struck me as odd was that the things they had the contestants doing were pretty much the same tasks they had them doing last year. So it seems to me that anyone who applied to be on this show would have been crazy to not have watched and committed to memory last year's series.

Anyway, there are a few folks who stand out for me.

I think Guy, the Sammy Hagar (plus about 40 pounds) look-a-like, is the frontrunner. He's not only a chef, but he owns several restaurants and seems driven enough to want it.

Nathan the white guy with the shaved head, comes off as arrogant and cocky. In one segment, Rachel Ray was on showing the folks how to handle the camera and he said something to the effect of, "I think she's my equal." Excuse me, chief, but last I checked, Rachel had something like four different shows on Food Network and you have squat.

The girls didn't impress me much and the other two guys are pretty plain. I do find it interesting that they didn't accept any pairs. I think that was what got Dan and Steve into the winner's spot last year. Since there were two of them, they could cover for each other while individual contestants had to deal with adversity on their own.

I will probably keep watching this through the season, although I would hope that the winners get a better timeslot than Sunday morning.

Doctor Who



Now that Battlestar Galactica is over until October, I checked out the new incarnation of Doctor Who, a show that was revived by the BBC last year and is now showing on The Sci-Fi Channel on Friday nights.

I will say that I like the show, even if the best Doctor was Tom Baker. I was never into Doctor Who as much as some of my other super-geek friends, but I did watch it every now and then. It struck me as the kind of show that was funny and well-written but didn't have the budget to be as good as it could have been.

The new version does have a pretty impressive budget (it helps that the cost of CGI effects for TV has come down dramatically since the 60s) and it's funny. I like the Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston and his sidekick isn't bad either.

It took me a minute to recognise the woman who play's Rose's mother, but it's the same woman who played the female lead role in Nuns on the Run, one of the most underrated funny movies of the 90s.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to stick with Doctor Who, especially since there's not much on Friday nights now that Battlestar Galactica is over, and it will be interesting to see how the series evolves in the new format.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Power of the Pimp Spot

It's a given that I have too much free time.

Some people doubt the power of placement, so I went back and watched last year's shows to see if going first increased someone's chances of getting whacked or if going last gave someone an advantage.

I watched the first nine weeks to see who went first, who went last, who ended up in the bottom 3 and who got whacked.

Interestingly, the people going first got eliminated the exact same number of times as the person going last: once. I'll get to this later.

In the semi-finals, six people went first and six people went last. All of the people who went last (Mario, Aloha, Bo, Vonzell, Anwar and Jessica) were safe. Of the six people who went first, four were safe (Nikko, Vonzell, Mario and Scott) while two got whacked the same week (Aloha, Amanda).

It was the exact same thing this year. All six of the people who went last (VCM, Taylor, Mandisa, Chris, Kellie, Ace) were safe. Four of those going first were safe (Mandisa, VCM, Taylor, Paris) while two were sent home (Patrick, Gedeon).

So over two years, in the semi-finals, 100% of the people going last were safe and 33% of the people going first got the boot.

In the rounds of 12, I looked at weeks 1-9, when there were enough people to make up a bottom 3. During those 9 weeks, the person going first was in the bottom 3 five times. Those five were Jessica, Anthony, Scott, Nadia and Anthony again. Of those, only Nadia was eliminated after going in the lead-off spot. Bo, FRC and Carrie (twice) also went first at some point during the season and were not in the bottom 3 that week.

Of the nine people who went last, only Anthony was in the bottom 3 performers and he was eliminated that week. Of course, there were only three other competitors left at that point and there was no way he was going to outlast Carrie, Bo and Vonzell.

As a side note, I thought that Fox would have reserved the Pimp Spot for their TCOs, but last year, Nikko, Jessica, Vonzell, Nadia, Constantine, Bo, Scott, Carrie and Anthony all got to go last with no repeats, so it does not necessarily mean long-term safety.

So does going first hurt someone? Yes. We saw that this year when Ace went first and landed in the bottom 3. Chris went last and was safe.

Going first means your chances of getting a trip to the stage for some Fox-manufactured drama on Wednesday nights are about 60%, which includes all of last year and week 1 of this year.

Conversely, going last is a built-in advantage.

Getting the Pimp Spot means that you're probably safe (unless you had a tracheotomy as a child and you're up against three other people who are vastly more talented that you are). With the exception of Anthony, no one else who got to go last, either in the semi-final rounds or from the Top 12 ever saw the bottom 3, so if you ever go on the show, pay someone off big time for the chance to sing last because it will mean less stress the following night.

However, going first is not an automatic indicator of elimination. I think part of that can be attributed to the fact that Fox enables powervoters. By seeing their favourite in the bottom 3, I think many otherwise normal voters become powervoters and work overtime to save their contestant the next week.

I will continue this analysis throughout this year to see how much people are helped or hurt by their position.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So long, Melissa

Well, it looks like no one is getting their money back this week.

I was very surprised at the bottom 3 this week. Melissa was no surprise, Lisa was mildly surprising, and Ace was a huge shock given that he has been one of Fox's TCOs this year.

In surfing some other message boards and American Idol discussions, Bucky has been picking up some support because he's a really likeable guy, even if he is the worst vocalist in the top 12. Fox likes to have at least one polarising contestant on the show and this year it's apparently Charlie Brown.

You may have heard me screaming "Noooooooooooo!!!" when Seacrest announced that Kellie was safe, but given that she got the post-singing sit-down interview to remind us of how cute she is, I shouldn't have been disappointed that she didn't get a trip to the center of the stage on elimination night, but I was.

To me, Melissa is the victim of Fox's continuing practise of giving some folks face time and not others. I will give them credit for having a longer segment before each contestant sang, but I think it's still pretty clear that the people who are shown regularly in the auditions and Hollywood have a pretty hefty advantage of those who are sight unseen going into the singing rounds.

That's not to say Melissa was jobbed; she wasn't going to win but I thought she was a solid second-tier contestant. After Mandisa, I think she has the most power in her voice of the girls and she's got a sound that is different from ther others (and I mean that in a good way). There are clearly worse vocalists and performers still in the competition (cough . . . Bucky . . . cough).

If Ace's trip to the bottom 3 is any indication of what's to come, it's that anything can happen, which is how it should be. With the exception of Bucky and Kevin, I think this top 12 (including Melissa) is the deepest we've seen and now it seems that he'll get a big boost in votes, just like Kevin did.

One final note:

Ace went in the lead off spot and was in the bottom 3.

Chris got the pimp spot and was safe.

I'll keep a tally of this all year long.

So good-bye, Melissa, I will miss you because I like you so much more than Kellie, Paris, Kevin and Bucky, all of whom should have been eliminated before you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Let the bloodbath begin

Like many other fans, when I heard that the theme for this week was Stevie Wonder, I had visions of the contestants self-destructing. After all, Stevie is hard to do. He has a unique vocal style that is hard to emulate. The first few performances were shaky and drew some not so nice criticism from the judges but as the night went on, things got better.

Here's how I rate the performances, in order of their appearance. All scores are out of a possible 10.

Going in the dreaded lead-off spot was one of Fox's TCOs, Ace. I thought his performance was good, but his vocals were shaky. Pitchy made its first appearance of the night, even though none of the judges mentioned it. He worked the stage behind the judges and the crowd, but his vocals were not up to par.
Flash Judgement: 7

Next up was ABM. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Kellie was exposed as a poor vocalist. She was flat through most of the performance, and if I can tell that, you have major, major problems. To me, she was clearly the weakest of the night. If she keeps this up, she is going to be going home a lot sooner than Fox wants her too. Plus, she kept up the country bumpkin act, and that gets her no points with me. You know it's bad when Paula takes a minute before busting out the "You look gorgeous" kiss of death.
Flash Judgement: 6

The first good performance of the night belonged to ell-E-ott. He wasn't great, but he was good. After sandbagging last week, his vocals were solid, although his performance was a little flat.
Flash Judgement: 7½

Next up was one of the people I thought would not have a problem singing Stevie Wonder, Mandisa. And you know what? I was right. Her voice never faltered and she worked the stage. I think she's making a hard charge and really wants to win.
Flash Judgement: 8½

The make-over folks got some product into Bad Hair and he was a lot better than I thought he was going to be. He picked the best possible song for him. His stage performance was excellent and he looked like he was having fun. I only wish he could have gotten the country out of his voice, just this once.
Flash Judgement: 7

Raise you hand if you knew Melissa had forgotten the words before Randy called her on it. Four out of five of you with your hands up are lying. She had a couple of moments where she sounded mush-mouthed, but other than that, I liked her and couldn't tell she had dropped a line, so she covered it well. Melissa has been underrated throughout the early rounds due to her lack of TV time, but I think she is starting to come on. She just needs to not let her big voice take over and try to do too much.
Flash Judgement: 8

After being plagued by the AFE throughout the semi-finals, Lisa came out with "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and it rocked. Her performance was excellent and hopefully will get her some of the votes that might normally have gone to Paris.
Flash Judgement: 8

Surprising me was Charlie Brown. I thought he would be horrible, but he reminded me once again that he's actually a pretty good singer. He picked a good song, didn't mess it up and sounded pretty good. His stage moves were at best entertaining and at worst laughable, but his legion of fans will keep him around this week.
Flash Judgement: 8

I haven't been high on VCM lately, but she was very good tonight. She was in control of her voice and picked a good song. I hope whatever hiccups she had during the semis are over because if she keeps this up, she'll make it at least to the half way point. One thing though, Katharine: my grandmother called and she wants her couch back.
Flash Judgement: 8½

Now into the home stretch, Fox brings us their final three TCOs.

First up is Taylor, who delivered a solid performance. His vocals were spot on, and he commands the stage. The band was into him, the judges were into him and the audience was into him. He is going to be a hard guy to beat this year. He may not be the ideal American Idol, but he's shaping up to be a strong contestant.
Flash Judgement: 8½

Ryan and Stevie compared Sergeant Hooks to Fantasia, and since I (and many other people) didn't like the season 3 winner, I don't know that she really wants that association. I was once again reminded why I want to mute the TV every time Paris talks, and then turn the volume up when she sings. Her performance was strong and her vocals were excellent. I still can't bring myself to like her, though.
Flash Judgement: 8

Getting the pimp spot is Fox's final TCO, Chris. Aside from doing the Bo thing with the microphone, he was the most memorable performance of the night, if only because he didn't do a straight-up cover. His performance was good and the arrangement was perfect for him.
Flash Judgement: 8½

To recap my scores:

Chris - 8½
Mandisa - 8½
Taylor - 8½
VCM - 8½
Charlie Brown - 8
Lisa - 8
Melissa - 8
Sergeant Hooks - 8
ell-E-ott - 7½
Ace - 7
Bad Hair - 7
Kellie - 6

There is no question in my mind that Kellie was the worst of the night, and I think she knows it. However, Fox has given her so much TV time that I think she'll easily advance. I think Bucky is a goner, although Elliott may also be in danger because I don't think he's found a fanbase yet.

My picks for the bottom 3: Bucky, Elliott, Kellie
Who should go home: Kellie
Who will go home: Bucky

Now I'm going to read what the rest of you thought about the show.

High Lord. Out.

My 100% Guarantee

Since it seems like everyone is posting the order in which they think the American Idols will be eliminated, I figured I should do the same. And no, if everyone jumped off a bridge I wouldn't jump, too.

Of course, in three months, I'm going to be looking back at this column and saying to myself, "Self . . . what the hell were you thinking?!?!?!"

So to amuse you, good reader, I am going to predict the order in which I think this crop of American Idol contestants will be voted off the show. Of course, since I predicted the BBG would advance deep into the finals, Anwar was in my top 3 last year and I thought LaToya was going to win two years ago, I would not listen to a single word I publish without taking it with a dumptruck full of salt.

That brings us to my guarantee. To borrow a page from Gregg Easterbrook, NFL.com's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, "All predictions wrong or your money back." So if my predictions are not 100% incorrect, I'll give you your money back (the time you've spent reading this blog is lost for good; Sorry).

In thinking about the order people should be eliminated, it brings up an interesting point about "America". Assuming that Fox counts the votes and doesn't manipulate the numbers (which they can legally do since the show is "entertainment" not a "contest") to keep some people around longer for the sake of controversy (read: ratings), some folks are advanced from week to week not because of their talent, but because of their ability to get powervoters to spend two hours voting for them over and over and over. Anthony Fedorov and John Stevens come to mind immediately.

To predict this, I am going to publish two lists. The first is the list of the order in which people should be eliminated. Going back to my earlier column about the final 12, there are three tiers of performers. Based on their vocal skills and their stage performances alone, I think people should be eliminated in this order:

12. Bucky
11. Kevin
10. Kellie
9. Melissa
8. Lisa
7. Ace
6. Katharine
5. Paris
4. Taylor
3. Elliott
2. Chris
1. Mandisa

To me, Mandisa is the strongest vocalist by far. That, of course, is no guarantee of success. Anwar was technically the best vocalist to ever grace the American Idol stage and he didn't come close to winning. Chris is also strong and so is ell-E-ott. Taylor gets big marks because he's so comfortable on stage. His vocal are solid, but he doesn't have the range of some of the other contestants and we've never seen him out of his comfort box.

There's a big logjam in the middle of the pack. Paris is one of the most seasoned performers and good vocalist, as is Lisa. Song choice has been their downfall over the last two weeks. Katharine and Melissa are also solid, although Melissa has been hurt by the lack of TV time and I think Katharine is still trying to establish an identity for herself. Ace has either been sandbagging or he peaked in the auditions. He's neither good nor bad, but I get the feeling that he has been coasting along and counting on his good looks to get him through. I think that, like Elliott, he needs to take the training wheels off and show us what he really can do instead of holding back.

The weakest vocalist is Bucky and the weakest performer is Kevin. I don't think there is any real debate about that. What is debatable is whether Kellie is overrated, and if so, just how much she is. Personally, I have not been impressed by her vocals. Her performances are okay, but I think she is among the weaker overall performers still around and she is relying heavily on the sympathy vote to carry her.

Kellie's country bumpkin act has been grating on me for a couple of weeks now. Fox built her a huge fan base with her sob story, but it's now starting to wear thin. I don't know if she's doing it intentionally (I think she is), but not knowing what a "mink" is or claiming to never have had sal-o-men shows me that she's trying to play the game straight out of the Carrie Underwood "How To" manual. C'mon, even the people of the great state of West Virginia—who have a law that allows us to take home the carcass of any animal we hit with a car so we can eat it—know how to pronounce "salmon". Kellie's only problem is that Carrie did it first, and she has a much better voice (despite Simon's comments; Paula must have slipped him some of her "Coke").

With that out of the way, I am now going to predict the order in which people will be eliminated.

12. Bucky
11. Melissa
10. Lisa
9. Elliott
8. Katharine
7. Kevin
6. Ace
5. Paris
4. Kellie
3. Mandisa
2. Taylor
1. Chris

I don't know how Bucky got into the finals. I thought for sure that his spot was going to Gedeon. I think he's in over his head and will be the first to go, especially since it has been widely reported that the first theme night is Stevie Wonder. If the first theme night were Alabama or Lynyrd Skynyrd, he would do very well, but I just don't see him being able to do well at any theme other than country, country rock or maybe blues.

Melissa has come on strong lately, but she doesn't have a large fan base. She has been hurt by Fox spending so much time reminding us how hard a life Kellie Pickler has had and by their obsession with the Brittenum boys. I think she'll be the second one to go.

Lisa will be the next to get whacked, a surprise to some, but not to me. Her song choices have not been good and I think she splits votes with Paris, who comes off to a lot of people as being much more likeable. Plus, Randy wants to suck up to Paris's grandmother, not Lisa's.

ell-E-ott has also struggled to find an audience. He's a good vocalist, but he lacks the good looks of Ace, the sob story of Chris and the charisma of Taylor. I like him, but unless he comes out really, really strong, he's going to be in trouble without legions of powervoters to keep him around.

I think VCM has not picked good songs of late and that might be hurting her when she leaves right after Elliott. I think a lot of the folks who would normally have voted for her in another year will already have committed themselves to one of the guys or Kellie (because of all her TV time). What she has going for her is that many of the BBG voters will probably gravitate to her since they look and sing so similarly and she'll attract some of Melissa's demographic.

Kevin should not last this long, but Fox will push him on us and his cuteness will carry him. I like Charlie Brown, but he's overmatched by the other contestants. I don't think American Idol will break him, but the theme nights are going to do him in. If anyone has the potential to be this year's Anthony or Jasmine, it's Kevin, so watch out.

With half the contestants gone, It hink we're going to be getting into a real dogfight. Unless his vocals pick up (and quick!), I think Ace has lost some potential voters to Taylor or Chris and I don't think they're coming back. Girls will vote for him because he's hawt, but I don't know if that will be enough to keep him around.

Sergeant Hooks has a lot of fans, but I don't think she's that strong. As I said before, I think she peaked with "Midnight Train to Georgia" and unless she picks better songs, she's going to lose a lot of voters to some of the guys. Still, I see her having a large core of loyal tween powervoters and she'll pick up Lisa's peeps as well.

All the TV time will pay off for ABM, who will have advanced this far on her sob story, ditzy blonde act and good looks. I think she doesn't go any further because at this point it's not about getting new voters, the game is about bringing in the factions of eliminated contestants to boost your own powervoters. I don't think Kellie will be able to consolidate anyone else's voting bloc. I think many of the voters for other eliminated contestants are going to one of the guys and not Kellie.

I really like Mandisa and I think she's going to be the last one standing among the girls because she's got the best voice and the most experience. American Idol won't break her and she's got skin thick enough to put up with the snide comments about her size and the determination to give the guys a run for their money.

Was Randy saying that a guy is going to win a sign of Fox's machinations or will it become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

To me, this competition might end up like season 2: Taylor and Chris have positioned themselves (or rather, Fox has positioned them) in the lead spots and it's up to everyone else to make a game of it.

Both of these guys are strong performers who haven't picked the wrong song and who don't try to do too much. They've also got legions of fans behind them and instead of polarising voters (ie—Brenna, Kellie, Kevin), even people who aren't fans don't hate them.

As the girls get sent home, I think their powervoters will line up behind one of these two guys all the way to the finals, and I think it's Chris's to lose.

Of course, "my" contestant hasn't won the whole thing before, so what do I know. Still, it's fun to speculate, even if I'm going to eat these words three months from now.

And remember, you're money back if I'm not wrong.

I guarantee it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

AI5: The Top 12 is assembled

I'm really liking having class on the same nights as the results shows. I don't have to put up with all the mindless filler Fox dumps into what should be a 10 minute show and I get to miss the group sings.

I walked through the door just in time to see the "shocker" that has been circulating on the message boards and the internet since Wednesday morning. Since the rumours started before the guys sang, it had to do with the girls, and most of the speculation was that Lisa would get whacked. It was a given the Kinnik would be gone (as predicted here first), so it had to be someone who didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.

To me, Melissa was the obvious choice to get cut because of the remaining contestants, she has had the least amount of face time. I thought everyone else was pretty safe.

My wife also told me that Will got whacked, and that was no surprise given the he really hasn't done much to distinguish himself from the rest of the field and while his vocals are pleasing, they're not good. Plus, he doesn't have the charisma of lesser vocalists (Bucky) or Fox pushing him because of his cuteness (Kevin) or the performance skills of some of the older contestants (Taylor).

I was very surprised that BBG got sent home. For the record, I have never been one of her fans. To me, she was always kind of emotionless and robotic, but her voice is good and she has really come on strong over the past few weeks. I'm not sure why she was outlasted by some of the others.

VCM has struggled over the past two weeks and Melissa was handicapped by the lack of TV time. Lisa has also been vulnerable because she's picked bad songs and Paris may have peaked too early, but she's one of Fox's TCOs, so it was a given that she would be staying. Mandisa is in a class all by herself vocally, so I knew she was safe.

As for Dr. Teeth getting the axe, I was mildly surprised because Bucky is a downright inferior contestant. Don't get me wrong; I like Bucky, but when the theme nights start and it's not country, he is going to be in a world of hurt.

So with the final four semi-finalists being shown the door, here's my take on the Top 12.

On the top tier are the best vocalists and performers. In my opinion, these folks are (in no particular order): Taylor, Chris and Mandisa.

Mandisa is vocally the strongest of the contestants with the best range. She's also got a big voice and can really belt them out. Chris is a solid vocalist and has great stage presence. He also knows his limitations and hasn't tried to do too much. Taylor is the best performer and has the most charisma. People love this guy. He also doesn't try to do too much with his voice and he's not rattled by the bright lights.

Making up the second tier are the folks who have good voices and might be a little behind on their performances or are good performers, but have struggled vocally. To me, these folks are (again, in no particular order): Ace, VCM, Melissa, Lisa, ell-E-ott, Kellie and Paris.

Ace and Kellie have the biggest followings, but have shown that they are shaky vocalists. Lisa and Paris have struggled with song choice. Elliott is technically solid, and I think he has yet to fully unleash himself. If he had not been sandbagging this week and had gone balls to the wall, I would have put him in the top tier.

VCM and Melissa are both middle of the pack. Melissa is ascending at the time when some other contestants (Paris) may have already peaked. VCM stumbled last week and this week, but she is also technically solid, so I think she needs to just find herself.

In the bottom tier are Bucky and Kevin. I like both these guys, but Bucky is a weak vocalist who as I mentioned before will be exposed once the theme nights start and Kevin's inexperience will cost him.

Both Lisa and Paris are the same age as him and neither of them are uncomfortable on stage. I daresay that Paris was brought up on stage (if her "Midnight Train to Georgia" was any indication) and we know that Lisa was in "The Lion King" when she was 10. Neither of them were shaking as Kevin was the other night.

I will say that there is no obvious Anthony Fedorov, Jasmine Trias or Justin Guarini in this group. I think that unless the VFTW crowd work double time, Kevin won't last another month and that Bucky will be jetisoned quickly. That would leave us with 10 contestants who are all varying degrees of good.

I'm going to reserve judgement on who is going to win, but I think the final four will look something like: Mandisa, Taylor, Chris and either Kellie or Ace.

But who knows? American Idol has been known to break contestants and people have been put through who have no business advancing.

It's going to be a fun ride for the next three months.

High Lord. Out.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

AI5: Top 8 guys

We're down to the top 8 guys. Going in, I think there are five or six strong guys, one really weak one and one or two on the bubble. You get to guess who fits in where.

First of all, what's up with Paula's outfit? Before I saw that it was a flower in front of her boobies, I thought it was tissue papers. And yes, it looks like she has been in the sauce already.

Going in the opening spot of death is Dr. Teeth who can't help but show off his pearly whites. Like Sergeant Hooks, Gedeon is good when he's singing, but I can't stand him when he's not. His vocals were good; he had good control, no pitch problems and the song was done really well, especially considering that it could have blown up on him. My problem with Gedeon is that there is something about his personality that I just don't like. I know it's not fair, but I just can't root for him.
Flash Judgement: 8/10

Next up is the TCO for the guys, Chris. He's picked a song that is well within his comfort zone and does not show off his voice. I think he's sandbagging going into the top 12. He'll coast easily because of all his TV time and because he has the knack for picking the perfect song. He wasn't great, but he didn't have to be.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

In the 3-hole is Charlie Brown. I like Kevin because he seems to be in control of the joke rather than the butt of it. Plus he can sing. However, let's get real: Kevin is not going to win. He's nerdy and likeable, but as a performer he is probably the weakest of everyone. He's got a good voice, but when they're telling the teenage girls to pick younger songs, he needs to not be singing Don McLean. Randy told him to stick to ballads, so if he goes AFE on us, I'll have to stab something with a spork.
Flash Judgement: 7/10

Like VCM on Tuesday, Taylor gets the pointless random interview. I'm still trying to figure that out. VCM needed help, but Taylor doesn't. Still, he gets some valuable face time. Then, it's on to . . .

Bad Hair is fourth and he shows us that he not only has a twin brother (scary, I know), but that they're both long-haired earring-wearing hippies (not that there's anything wrong with that). He also picks the perfect song, but unfortunately, I think he's exposed himself to being a one-dimensional performer. Once he gets out of the country box, he is doomed. I like Bucky and I think that (unlike Kellie Pickler) he really is a good ole boy from the country who would move heaven and earth for his friends, but I don't think he belongs in this competition.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

Opening the second half for the guys is dead man walking Will. Like Kevin, he's a young guy singing a song that was written before he was born. Hell, they're singing songs that were written before I was born. Will is once again Will. That is, he was okay, but there is nothing distinctive about him and nothing that makes me think he can win. He kind of looks like Kevin from The Wonder Years. I don't dislike Will, but I don't like him either.
Flash Judgement: 7/10

Now we get to hear Taylor sing and like Chris before him, he picks the perfect song. I think he really is having fun, plus he's older, which gives him a leg up. I saw Kevin visibly shaking when he was singing; Taylor was shaking, too, but it wasn't because he was nervous. He's either having a really good time or he's having a seizure. I think he qualifies as the second of Fox's TCOs for the guys and he'll easily (and deservedly) move on.
Flash Judgement: 8/10

When [E.T voice=on]ell-E-ott[/E.T. voice] starting singing, I had a flashback to sixth grade. I was back at Elizabeth Cobb Middle School. There is a smoke generator in the corner filling the gym with haze while portable lights give the place its romantic ambience. I look frantically for Emily Frumpkin, because our song is playing. We meet, and fall into that awkward 11 year-old slow dance embrace. The song ends. We hug, and then go back to our separate groups, waiting--longingly--for the next slow dance to come so we can once again find each other. Damn, I feel old now.

Elliott was okay. Not great. Not bad. The song did him no favours, but like Chris, I think he's sandbagging until the real competition starts.
Flash Judgement: 7/10

In the pimp spot is the third TCO for the guys, Ace. When he talks, I still think he's gay (not that there's anything wrong with that). I think Paula picked out her outfit just for him. I don't see his charm. The falsetto didn't do anything for me and his eyeboinks don't make me want to become ace-curious. He may also have been sandbagging because he's been a much stronger contestant, but personally, I think it was the worst performance of the night, but he'll sail on through because he's so hot. Also, did you see Ace's brother (maybe even his twin)? So, ladies (and ace-curious guys), if Paula gets her hooks on Ace, maybe you have a shot with his look-a-like.
Flash Judgement: 6½/10

To sumarise:

Dr. Teeth - 8
Taylor - 8
Bucky - 7½
Chris - 7½
Elliott - 7
Kevin - 7
Will - 7
Ace - 6½

Who should go home: Bucky, Will
Who will go home: Bucky, Will

Some folks think the guys are better than the girls this year. Overall that may be true. With the girls, there is Mandisa whose vocals are light-years better than any of the rest. Then there is a large pack and Kinnik bringing up the rear.

With the guys, there are no definite standouts. There is a top tier with Taylor, Chris, Elliott and Gedeon (when he's singing). Then there is a second tier that features the rest of them. There is no third tier and no one running away.

Personally, I would like for Will and Gedeon to go home because I just can't like either of them, and I really can't explain why. However, I think Bucky will go home because he's a one trick pony, which is only fair because the fact of the matter is that the only place he really belongs is on Nashville Star.

Those are my opinions, let's see how it plays out tomorrow on the results show.

Check this out

Everyone knows that Fox/19E is pimping Kellie Pickler to win. Or at least go very far in the competition. Since the first time we saw her, we found out that her mother abandoned her when she was 2, her father is in prison and she live with her grandfather in a trailer. We were also led to believe that she has never performed in front of a large audience and that she is a smart, but naive, country girl who has not been tainted by the cynicism of Hollywood and the sophistication of the city.

If you remember, this part was played last year by Carrie Underwood, who not only sang better, but didn't have the aura of white trash about her.

On the other hand, we have also been presented with Melissa McGhee. Melissa's not blonde, she's not as cute and her voice is a lot rougher (and I mean that in a good way). I don't remember seeing Melissa in the audition phase and she certainly didn't get shown at her home or breaking down into tears at every chance she got.

That brings us to:

vs.


Apparently Melissa has had her share of hardships, too. Her parents have both done time for non-voilent crimes, mostly writing bad checks, although she herself has no criminal record. She works a day job and is by all accounts, a good young woman. So why hasn't American Idol been pimping her, too?

Read this article about Melissa.

Now check out some information about Kellie Pickler. According to these claims, she is neither innocent nor inexperienced, which is what she (and Fox) would like you to believe.

Of course, the above article comes to us from the "Vote For the Worst" folks, so you know they have it in for American Idol. At the same time, there are a couple of links in the piece on Kellie that seem (on the surface) to be credible.

I leave it to you, good reader, to decide whether Kellie really is better and more deserving than Melissa to move on to the next rounds, because it's pretty apparent to me that Melissa is in danger of being eliminated on Thursday and Kellie will no doubt sail on into the top 6. It seems to me that each year that Fox has a couple of "chosen ones" who they promote and give face time to, and others whom they neglect completely.

Did they do that to us with Kellie? If they did, I find it odd that they would push a poorer version of Carrie on us so soon after the country starlet won the whole thing last year, but who knows how Fox thinks?

Both Kellie and Melissa's fates are sealed. The public's votes have been cast. It remains to be seen exactly how far Kellie's country-bumpkin act (which is portrayed much more convincingly by Bad Hair) will carry her.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

AI5: Top 8 girls

Once again, I'm going to simul-blog the women singing. I hope there are no power ballads.

And thank god the show is only an hour long tonight.

Going in, I think that Paris, Lisa and Kellie have pre-punched tickets to make it to the finals. I also think Ayla and Mandisa are probably going to sail in, too.

That leaves Kinnik, Katharine and Melissa fighting for the last spot. Unless she shows that she's the second coming of Diana Ross, Kinnik is going to be leaving us on Thursday. I'd like to see Melissa advance because she's sung well and hasn't had the same amount of TV time as some other contestants who aren't as good but have more fans (Kellie and Paris, I'm talking to you).

The show is about to start, so we'll see how close my predictions are.

Paula has a blank look on her face. I think they've doped her up with percocets.

We find out that Sergeant Hooks's nickname is "Princess". No surprise there. She's singing Gloria Estefan and has ditched her bad hair style. She really does move on the stage better than just about anyone in the competition this year. Her vocals aren't spectacular, but they don't have to be. I still can't stand the way she sounds when she talks. Randy wants her to do a ballad next week and I think maybe he and Paula have been sharing kool aid. Don't listen to Randy, Paris!
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

Next up is Lisa who plays the electric guitar. She's gone AFE on us. Her voice is also okay, better than Paris but not spectacular either. The song is very karaoke. I'm not crazy about it, but she'll also sail through to the finals. The judges don't like her song choice and they're right.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

In the three hole is Melissa singing a Heart song (it worked for Mandisa). She admits to liking fast cars and driving a stick shift in a clear ploy to get guys to vote for her. Unfortunately, she's also given in to the AFE, but her voice works well with the song. She's on the bubble and in my opinion worthy of the sixth girl spot. Simon didn't like the big note at the end and it did fall flat for her, but I hope the bling on her boobs will get her enough votes to make it to next week.
Flash Judgement: 7½/10

What the hell is up with the BK chicken-riding commercial? Damn. I can't un-see that.

Katharine isn't singing, but she still gets an interview. What's up with that? She dispells the rumours that she's quitting the show, rumours that she's pregnant and denies that that Kevin is the father. Of course, I'm sure Kevin would like nothing more than for VCM to be carrying his love child. I think it's pretty obvious that Fox is pushing her to get through.

The person who is really going in the 4-hole Kinnik and she's not good. The song choice is bad and her voice is flat. Plus she looks like she's in pain when she sings. This was definitely the wrong song for tonight. She can't pull off Alicia Keyes and I don't think she truly realises how close she is to elimination. Paula gave her the "you look amazing" kiss of death. Dead woman walking.
Flash Judgement: 6½/10

VCM gets us past the halfway point. I don't know that associating herself with FRC is a good thing, but it's funny. She's singing Aretha and I like the song choice. She doesn't have Aretha's big voice, and if they're going to rip Heather for not living up to Mariah last week, they have to fault Katharine for falling short of Aretha (especially since it is from one of the three funniest movies ever made), but they don't. Still, she doesn't sound bad and thows in a couple of eye-boinks for good measure. Randy, Paula and even Simon are in "super overpraise mode". Fox must really not want Melissa to advance.
Flash Judgement: 7/10

Sixth in the order is BBG. What the hell was the point of her telling us she thought her dad was Elvis? She's picked gone out the furthest on the limb for song choice. BBG is out for blood because it worked for her. She just laid a beat down on the girls who played it safe (Lisa, Paris) and the girls who stumbled vocally (Melissa, Kinnik). Randy didn't like the song, but she knows that she can't play it safe. I think she just solidified her spot in the competition.
Flash Judgement: 8½/10

The best vocalist of the competition is Mandisa who sings Chaka Khan and not only isn't swamped, but does it very, very well. Like Ayla, she's out for blood and brings it all. Her vocals are spot-on and her performance is also very good. I thought she was on the bubble before, but she just shot to into the lead. By the way, when did she become a one-name performer?
Flash Judgement: 9/10

Last to go is one of Fox's Chosen Ones, ABM, who likes dogs. She's doesn't have Melissa Etheridge's deep, throaty voice, but she tries anyway. I am definitely underwhelmed. At least her hair is (mostly) out of her face tonight. She'll sail through, but I'm not sure she actually deserves it. The judges are, once again, in super over-praise mode, and she's milking the whole "I'm an innocent country girl thing" for all it's worth.
Flash Judgement: 7/10

To recap my scores for the night:

Mandisa - 9
BBG - 8½
Lisa - 7½
Melissa - 7½
Sergeant Hooks - 7½
ABM - 7
VCM - 7
Kinnik - 6½

Who should go home: Katharine, Kinnik
Who will go home: Kinnik, Melissa

I think the girls have fallen into a clear pecking order. Vocally, alone on the top tier is Mandisa. A couple steps behind are Paris, Lisa and BBG making up the second tier, although both Hooks and Lisa had off nights. Kellie is the weakest girl vocally, but she isn't bad and has legions of fans thanks to all the face time she has had.

I think both Melissa and Katharine also fall into the second tier, although both are still in danger of going home. Kinnik is the worst girl still in the competition, both in terms of her vocals and her performance. I'm saying Melissa will probably be the other girl going home this week because she finished on a bad note, but I think she could be very good.

Tomorrow, for the first time in a month, American Idol is not going to be bumped for a crappy basketball game. I'd thank the idiots over at WVAH but I know that if there were a UK game they could show, they would. Bastards. Maybe next year, they'll show the UK games on a 2½ delay instead of American Idol (yeah, right!).

Let's see how the guys do tomorrow.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I hope the Big 2 are listening

Consumer Reports picked their Top 10 vehicles and surprise, surprise, surprise, there is not one "American" name among them.

The list includes the Honda Civic (sedan under $20K), Honda Accord (sedan $20-30K), Acura TL (sedan $30-40K), Infiniti M35 (luxury sedan), Subaru Impreza WRX/STi (fun to drive), Subaru Forester (small SUV), Toyota Highland Hybrid (mid-size/large SUV), Honda Odyssey (minivan), Toyota Prius (green car), and the Honda Ridgeline (pickup truck).

It seems that the Big 2 American auto makers (that's GM and Ford; Chrysler is owned by the Germans) are falling behind at the things (gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs) they're used to making well. They've sucked at making cars for decades and their last bastion of quality and name recognition has been their trucks. And now it looks like they can't make those as well as other people in the world.

Here's the problem for GM and Ford: they have conditioned the buying public to not want to buy their products.

Really, when was the last time you got in a Grand Am or a Taurus and thought, "This is built so much better than a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry." If you have ever thought that, you're lying.

Now that Dubya and his buddies in the oil business have made gobs and gobs of dough with inflated gas prices, people are seriously starting to consider the price of fuel when they buy a car and that has only hurt Ford who has relied on its high-profit margin Excursions and Explorers to keep them solvent.

Same thing with GM who has sold a glut of Tahoes, Suburbans and Silverados while severely neglecting their other models.

For the record, I have a 2001 Olds Alero and it is the biggest piece of crap anyone ever slapped four wheels on and called a "car". Quality problems aside (and I've had plenty of those), the vehicle is designed poorly. Whoever laid out the cockpit obviously never drove it. The buttons have a cheap, Fisher Price feel to them. The car does stupid stuff that I don't need/want it to do (like turn the radio up based on how fast I'm driving) but doesn't do things I take for granted (like have pockets in the doors for maps and stuff).

The bottom line is this: no matter how much Detriot whines about how health care costs are killing their companies, if they put a good product together and made people want to buy more than one of their cars, they wouldn't be laying off a quarter of their workforce.

I will probably never buy another General Motors product because this Alero has been such a major disappointment and piece of junk. GM has only themselves to blame. They have flooded the market with a poor product for short-term profits and now it's coming back to hurt them.

Toyota is about to become the world's largest producer of automobiles, and it's because they're not satisfied to put out a product that skates by. They're interested in market share not profit and they won't let their name be put on something that is obviously a bucket of bolts (although they will produce cars that are butt-ugly, like the entire Scion line).

I would really like to think that Ford and GM can save themselves from bankruptcy or being bought out by someone like BMW or Nissan. But if they can't, that's too bad for them, and good for the rest of us.

Friday, March 03, 2006

My take on the remaining American Idols

If you check the comment by Jennifer on the previous post, she is hoping that Kellie will get sent packing.

ABM's not going home any time soon and it's because she has had so much time on TV to remind us of how cute and country she is, and how heart-wrenching her story is (blech!).

The way I see it, Kellie, Paris, Ace, Taylor, Lisa and Chris are 100% guaranteed to make the top 12. In order for any of them to not make it past this coming week, they would have to club a baby seal to death on stage, steal candy from a small child and say they don't want world peace. Even then, they would still be 50-50 on making it to the finals.

Elliot, Ayla, and Mandisa are some of the strongest performers still standing. Kevin has the cutness factor and his army of powervoters now has motivation. These four can go AFE on us and still be 80% to make it into the top 12.

Everyone else is in play.

Katharine, Kinnik, Melissa, Bucky, Gedeon and Will need strong performances to fill out the remaining two spots.

Katharine was coasting into the finals until she screwed up this week. Kinnik and Melissa have been unknowns who were hurt by their lack of TV time. The advantage Melissa has is that when she has been shown singing, she has been strong. Look for her to wear an outfit that shows off the girls. Think Jessica Sierra when she needed to make it into the finals.

The High Lord's Odds of making the finals:

Katharine 3-1
Melissa 4-1
Kinnik 12-1

All three of the guys have been hurt by shortened TV time (gee, is there a recurring theme here?). I think Bucky is the poor-man's Bo (however, Bo got some product into his hair and Bucky looks like he hasn't shaved in a month and doesn't know what shampoo is), like Kellie is the poor-man's Carrie. However, unlike ABM who is portrayed as naive, Bucky is shown as being kuntry without the advantage of being A) cute & perky, and B) having a sob story to beat over our heads week after week after week.

Will's problem is that he is utterly boring. I don't dislike him. I don't like him. Gedeon is at least distinctive. He shows us all the dental work he's had and the judges like him because he sounds good. While that's fine, it also means he'll be going home after the first round of voting because the older and/or more experienced performers (Chris, Ace, Mandisa, Paris) will chew him up and spit him out.

The High Lord's Odds of making the finals:

Gedeon 5-1
Will 8-1
Bucky 15-1

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Who's 4 for 4?

That would be me.

I had class tonight and was lucky enough to get out a little early. I walked through the door just was Brenna was getting whacked.

Oh, happy day!

Then they axed Heather over Kinnik. The reason is simple: Kinnik butchered a song that not a lot of people have heard. And even then, those how have heard it, know that Gretchen Wilson is no great vocalist herself.

American Idol stalker Heather should have known better than to take on Mariah Carey, especially considering that she has not had a lot of TV time and that her voice isn't big. I think the only one who could successfully pull off a Mariah song this year is Mandisa. Everyone else would only self-destruct (like Heather).

Of the guys, there were no surprises in who got whacked. David was clearly the weakest singer and performer. Plus, we got our fill of crooners with Red. I hope this sends a message--loud and clear--to all the would-be Rat Packers out there: Stay Home!

The one big surprise of the night was that Kevin was in the bottom 3. I thought for sure his cult following was going to carry him all the way into the top 6. Of course, this could also be a reverse-psychology ploy. Now that they know he's vulnerable, all of his teenie-bopper fans will start powervoting and burn up their phones with text messages to keep him around.

Kevin was not the best vocalist or performer of the night, but neither was he the weakest. I thought for sure that the other person in the bottom 3 was going to be Will.

I'm sorry to see Sway go, but he was undone by his song choices. Bad and bad.

I hope everyone else has learned a lesson from Sway, and indeed, from this past week. Pick the right songs.

The AFE struck in full force and I hope we never see it again. There are about six people who are in danger of being whacked next week (Kinnik, Will, Melissa, Bucky, Gedeon, and if she stumbles again Katharine), so they need to pull out all the stops, avoid falling into the power ballad trap and go balls to the wall.

Based on the last two weeks, right now I'm picking Will, Bucky, Kinnik and Katharine to be the ones who pack their bags next Thursday night. However, there are a couple of other folks out there (Kevin, I'm talking to you) who can't afford a slip, otherwise they'll end up looking at the bottom 3 from the wrong spot.

AI5: Top 10 guys

Well, I didn't get to see the top 10 guys at the appointed hour, thanks once again to the morons over at WVAH, but my wife and I went to Coldstone right after dinner, so I loaded up on ice cream to stay up and watch the re-broadcast.

Since I'm not watching the episode right now, instead of giving everyone a "Flash Judgement" score, I'll group them into my usual categories of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

In a general note, everyone must have gotten a memo saying that they had to pick crappy songs this week. The guys were pretty good last week and presented a wide variety of genres and styles, but this week, a bunch of them succumbed to what I am going to call "The Anthony Fedorov Effect" (AFE for short).

It started with Clay back in season 2, but last year, Tracheotomy-boy turned it into an art form. The AFE is where contestants power-ballad (yes, "power-ballad" is now a verb) their way through the competition, doing their best to cover their vocal deficiencies with sappy songs and big-note finishes. It got Trach-boy to third place, so it must work, right? Unfortunately, it made almost all the performances from the Wednesday night show utterly blah.

The Good

Chris, Kevin

The big winner from last night is Chris. It helps that he got to go last in the 10-spot. While a couple of guys also avoided the power-ballad, the only guy who seemed to totally own his performance was Awesome Stepdad Chris. As Simon said, last night Chris put on a clinic on how to get it done on the show.

I put Kevin in this group not because his vocals were great (they weren't) or because his performance was good (it wasn't). I put him in the top group because he is scooping up fans faster than people at Mardi Gras go after beads. Did you guys notice how with one little mention of being "the guy that had lots of platonic girl friends who they call when they're having boy issues", he earned the loyalty of all the teenage girls? He's already getting all the Star Trek convention votes.

The Chicken Little joke that Seacrest made would have been funny except my buddy DJ Slim made that same joke almost two weeks ago.

What Kevin has is likeability without having to put himself down like Bucky and ABM do. Really, when they talk about not knowing what's on a restaurant menu, it makes them look like backwoods rednecks and the joke's on them. Kevin, on the other hand, is probably the smartest contestant that the show's ever had and he's in on the joke. Plus, he looks like he's having fun.

His singing was good, but not great and his performing skills need a lot of work, but he is endearing himself to the audience and that's what's important.

The Bad

Ace, Bucky, Elliot, Gedeon, Taylor

These guys all had good performances, but none of them were great.

[E.T. voice=on]ell-E-ott[/E.T. voice] was probably the best of the bunch vocally, but his performance was kind of bland. He's not the best vocalist the show has had; he's certainly not Anwar and I don't even think he's close to Clay. Still, he was good enough and that will get him through. Now if we could just get him to shave and get a haircut that doesn't make his ears look so big . . .

(Also, did you notice how Fox was building sympathy votes for Elliot by letting everyone know that his mother had a near-death experience while he was in Hollywood?)

Taylor was also okay. He was doing "his thang" but like Katharine on Tuesday, he went in the 1-hole and didn't do anything to stand out. Still, he'll get through easily because of the huge number of fans he already has.

Ace was good, but also uninspiring. My opinion of his performance is not helped by the fact that I cannot stand the song he did. He did a few eye-boinks to make sure that all the girls out in TV land (and some of the "ace-curious" guys, too) remembered to vote for him, but he picked the wrong song to build a huge lead for himself.

(Did you see the way Brenna elbowed all the other girls out of her way to get Ace's cap? Dayum! You'd have thought it was the bouquet and she was the crazy drunk bridesmaid.)

Falling into the category of "guys who are good, but I just don't get" is Gedeon. He's got a good singing voice, but there is just something about him that doesn't make me want to like him. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike the guy, but he's just flat for me.

His vocals were fine and he's got that million dollar smile that is the result of either a very pleasant personality or several thousands of dollars worth of dental work that he wants to show off to the world.

Finally, we come to Bucky who is probably the weakest of the male vocalists. That's not necessarily a bad thing because Bo was one of the weakest voices from last year. Like Kellie, Bucky showed us how country he is and then (surprise!) sang a country song. Fortunately, for him it was the perfect song.

Pitchy made an appearance, but it didn't matter because that's what Bucky does well. However, if he makes the finals, I don't think he'll last long because the Air Supply theme night is going to kill him. I just don't see him being able to venture outside the genre and do well. Nashville Star should have been his launching pad.

The Ugly

David, Sway, Will

I think all three of these guys are candidates for elimination. They've all been plagued by shorter TV time than some of the other contestants and they were all very, very bad last night.

As a backhanded compliment, Sway was the best of the three, but he clearly was off his game. He could do very well, but he doesn't have the luxury of being able to bomb a week and expect to stick around.

Will was okay, but there is nothing distinctive about him. He sang a safe song and he looks a lot like David, to the point where they're basically interchangeable (and I'm not just saying that because he's white and ya'll look the same to us, too). I was wholly uninspired by him and that might put him on the chopping block.

Clearly the worst performance of the night was by David "I Don't Want to Be Known as This Year's Crooner" Radford who sang a Sinatra song. It was bad. The song choice was bad. The singing was bad. The performance was bad. There should be very little debate as to whether or not he is gone tonight.

Who should go home: David, Will
Who will go home: David, Sway

I've got class again tonight, so I won't be watching the results show live, but I'll post my reaction to the elimination when I get home.

I would also like to mention one other thing, courtesy of WVAH. Since the show aired on a 2½ delay, people in the Huntington-Charleston viewing area didn't get to vote along with the other people in the eastern time zone. During the re-broadcast, there was a crawl that read something to the effect of "Because of the tape delay, phone lines are open and you can vote until midnight".

The funny thing about that is the show aired from 10:30 to midnight. That gave a huge leg up for the people who went early (like Taylor) where people in this viewing area could vote for him for an hour and a half if they wanted but since Chris didn't go until last, you could vote for him until about 11:45 when you knew where his spot--and therefore his phone number--was going to fall.

This would seem to put some people at a huge competitive disadvantage since even a small market could skew the votes for people who went early as opposed to late.

In another observation of the ways in which Fox manipulates the way people vote, on Tuesday, the girls went in reverse order from last week, taking into account those who were eliminated. The guys on the other hand, were completely scrambled up. If the guys had gone in reverse order, the show would have looked like this:

Taylor, Ace, Elliot, Gedeon, Kevin, Chris, Sway, Will, Bucky, David.

Is Fox giving some of the guys (cough . . . Chris . . . cough) an unfair advantage?

Of course they're giving some people an unfair advantage . . . it's Fox!!!

High Lord. Out.