Wednesday, February 28, 2007

American Idol, Top 20, The Girls

After last night, where the guys stepped it up a little from last week, it's the girls's turn.

Just a note from last night: According to DialIdol, Sundance and Sanjaya will be safe with everyone else statistically in danger of being voted off.

One of those two has a chance at making a good run, the other will implode within the next six weeks. Can you guess which one is which?

As far as the girls go, I think everyone pretty much assumes that the final four will have 8 X chromosomes between them and that everything else is a formality. I can't say I can argue much, but I wonder which four it will be. There is clearly a top tier, a solid second tier and a handful of people who are only there to get kicked off.

We've got 10 singers in an hour long show coming up, and you know what that means: 24 minutes of inane banter from the judges, 16 minutes of commercials, 35 minutes of filler and product placement and oh, yeah, 15 minutes of singing. What's wrong with this picture?

Drawing the Dead Man's Spot is an early favourite, Gina. She's singing Heart, which is good for her because she's got the kind of voice that can pull it off. Power ballads aren't generally a good way to go at this stage, especially when you have the unfortunate luck of going first. Last week, half of the people going first got whacked and I think this week, that will change. The woman they've got singing harmony isn't helping her and at the end, Gina sounded like she was shouting. I wasn't blown away and she wasn't as good as Randy and Paula said. I think she'll pass through this week easily, but she needs to dig in if she wants to make a game of this.

Next up is Alaina, who is one of the cookie-cutter girls who are basically interchangeable. She's not bad, but she's not great either. In another year, she might have been considered a solid second-tier contestant, but this year, she's overmatched. To her credit, she's singing a song from the Dixie Chicks album, "Screw All You People in Nashville, We Were Right, Dammit!" and that scores her points in my book. Her voice isn't big enough for the song, but she gave it a good try. Did Randy say "pitch" without saying "pitchy"? I'd look for her to be in danger tomorrow night.

Following the previous mess is CSM who is (in my opinion) even better than last week. I thought people were too nice to her last week; she's got a big voice but she was shouting a lot before. Now she's singing and she's good. Plus, she wasn't crying this week. I wouldn't crown her the winner (as some others have been ready to), but she's definitely in the mix. It's good that she is mixing it up a little bit and doing more than just trying to overpower every song that comes along.

Batting clean up is she of the abnormally-large heads, Melinda. She's singing Ella and she's okay. Not great, but she's right on pitch. I don't know that this is the best style for her, but like CSM, she's showing versatility while getting in a couple of money notes without oversinging everything. She'll easily be safe and is another girl who is definitely in the mix for the finals.

Have I mentioned how much I hate all of the banter from the judges? This almost makes me want to go out and get a TiVO just so I can FF through this crap.

GBF is next and she is violating one of the American Idol commandments: "Thou shalt not sing Whitney, Mariah or Celine unless thou art actually Whitney, Mariah or Celine". Not only that, but she's bad. Pitchy rears his head in a bad way. And that high note was awful. It's a good thing VFTW picked her because I think they're the only ones who will be voting for her. She's also got to be happy that she was shown in the auditions and Hollywood in a bikini because she needs all the help she can get (can you say "TCO"?). You know it's bad when Randy tells a singer that they look beautiful. Bad. Bad. Bad.

I also think I've mentioned this before, but I can't get over "Blister in the Sun" being used to sell Wendy's burgers. That just freaks me out.

After a gazillion commercials (seriously, Britney Spears could have gotten married and divorced in this amount of time), it's time for Jordin, the other teenager in this year's competition. She definitely comes off as older than 17, but not in a bad way. She seems very centered and mature, but not old. And she's crying, which might get her some sympathy. The beginning is rough and a couple of notes are off, but I think she's solidly in the second tier. Plus, she's very pretty, and that never hurts. If anything might hurt her, it's that she might split votes with Stephanie and Sabrina.

Wrapping up the first hour of the show is Stephanie who was in the Dead Man's Spot last week. I liked her last week and this week she's good again, but not great. I think she's trying to do too much with her voice instead of simply singing the song. She gets in a money note and I think she's hoping people will notice the slit on the gown more than her singing. She's solidly in the second tier, and on the verge of breaking through to the top.

Leslie was brought to the finals simply to get kicked off. At least that's my opinion. She's not bad, but she's not great. Plus, she is hurt by a lack of TV time and the fact that she's not drop-dead gorgeous, which is what she needs because her voice isn't spectacular. All the scat at the end doesn't make me like her any more either. I wouldn't say she was bad, but it was not good either, and in this company, that could mean that she's going to get canned this week.

Cookie Cutter #3 is Haley and she's at least bringing a lot of energy to the stage. I think she really wants to win and this song is her attempt at standing out, which might get her to next week. Unfortunately for her, I think she's also going to get lost behind the other girls with the big voices and Antonella's massive amount of TV time. It helps that she's going near the end of the show, which will get her some votes.

Closing out the show in the Pimp Spot is Sabrina. A safe song, she gets to show off her big voice. I'd say it was a bit over the top, but it was a nice way to close out the show. Sabrina is getting ready for the finals and she'll easily advance to next week. The only question is whether she makes the finals.

The Good
Lakisha
Melinda

The Bad
Alaina
Gina
Haley
Jordin
Sabrina
Stephanie

The Ugly
Antonella
Leslie

Lakisha and Melinda are running away with this thing right now. Everyone else is fighting for scraps. It also occurred to me that some of the girls who know they're in good shape (Stephanie, Jordin, Gina) might be sandbagging because they need to bring it when we get to the top 12.

In my opinion, the shoo-ins for the girls are Gina, Lakisha, Melinda, and Stephanie. I think one slot will probably go to GBF thanks to her early "exposure" and her face time, too. I think Stephanie and Sabrina are going to be fighting for the final spot, which is a shame because they're both good.

The other girls, Alaina, Haley and Leslie, are all pretty much the same and are in over their heads. In other seasons, they could have been passed through ahead of folks like Lindsey or Melissa, but this year, I think they're all in trouble. I'd put Antonella in this group if not for frolicking in the bikini at the beach.

Who should go home: Antonella, Leslie
Who will go home: Alaina, Haley, Leslie (pick any two, it doesn't matter)

It's going to really suck when it comes time to pare the girls down to six because there are six girls who should advance and one who probably will advance because Fox picked her as a TCO. I think Haley should also be put through because in another year she might have been able to make a charge and finish in the top 6 or 7. That will leave 8 people fighting for six spots while the guys know that at least two of them will be advancing to the finals despite the fact that they are inferior to girls who got eliminated in the semis.

That's it for me. I'll be waiting with baited breath for the results tomorrow.

High Lord. Out.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

American Idol, Top 20, the Guys

It's time for another show and, with any luck, the guys will redeem themselves from last week. As I mentioned before, I got in late and have to watch the show on tape. Luckily, this will let me forward through all of the vapid judges's comments and get straight to the 90 seconds each person is alloted to sing.

Gawd I hate filler. I am happy to see a giant picture of J-Hud spilling out of her dress behind Seacrest, though. We've got a half hour show and we're into minute 7 before there's any singing.

First up is New Papi. He's going shaved with his egg-shaped chrome-dome that I'm not crazy about. However, it's almost better than the George Huff hat that he's sporting in his official portrait. Going in the Dead Man's Spot probably doesn't do him any favours. I hate this song and Phil doesn't make me like it any more. I don't see the charm of this guy. He didn't start out half of the song out of tune, which is good, but I don't think he's the best guy in the competition. Unfortunately, I think the face time he got during the auditions will keep him around.

Next up is Jared who's better this week. I think the girls are going to vote for this guy. He's good on stage, even though his vocals aren't spectacular. Of course, in this bunch of guys, being above average is good enough.

Going third is A.J.. I don't recognise the song and that's bad. He just transitioned into the stripper music section and I'm thoroughly not enjoying this. If there were a bottom 3 at this stage, he'd be in it. A definite candidate for elimination on Thursday.

Fan fave and Fox TCO Sanjaya is in the four-hole and the more I look at him, the more I think he needs a haircut. It looks like the makeover people got the memo and they've pulled his hair back and put a hat on him. He's still in over his head. I think his voice is weak and his youth is showing through. If he makes the top 24, it will be on the strength of the tweenie vote. I think "America" needs to put him out of my misery (and his) and send him packing this week. His performance is wholly uninspired and the vocals were not good.

Mophead rounds out the first half of the show and he's got a tastefully-named wife. Instead of singing an obscure song to be different, he's showing off his voice this week and, while he's not the best guy to grace the stage, he's not half-bad. Coupled with his TV time, he's got an easy pass through to the next round. No barbs with Simon, though.

Next up, we get to hear Nick. I dislike this song, too. He sounds like he's singing in the wrong key. I'm not crazy about this performance. I'd put him in my bottom 3, too. He's not bad, but I think he's 100% unforgettable.

BBB gets his shot next. Jennifer likes his singing dad. I like Blake, although I didn't like this song the first time I heard it. He busts out some beat-boxing and break-dancing and while his vocals aren't particular inspired, he's got a nice gimmick that he tastefully doesn't abuse or work to death. He'll easily go through to next week.

I thought A.J. was sure to be sent home this week, but now it looks like Brandon is going to win the "worst of the night" honours. His pitch is off and he reminds me of Gedeon, and not in a good way. He's even got a smile that is eerily-similar to Dr. Teeth's I'm-in-a-cult look. I'm not feeling the song.

According to Dialidol, Chris R. was one of the top 3 vote-getters last week, so we'll see if he can maintain that this week. He's definitely different from everyone else. I don't care for him, but he's not singing a power ballad and he's going deep into the Idol playlist instead of singing another of the old standbys. I think he'll definitely be back next week.

Damn, there are a lot of commercials in this show. Why isn't this a two-hour show? Fox could sell more ads and we could hear more singing.

TCFKS gets the Pimp Spot and we find out he has a little boy and that he cries. Talk about blatant vote-pandering . . . Anyway, he goes back to what he's good at (unlike last week). Maybe he's out of his song-choice funk now. I'd say he deserves the Pimp Spot (or Money Spot as my friend Mike calls it). Compared to the other guys, he was very good. I think the girls are going to wipe the floor with him though.

The Good
Sundance

The Bad
Blake
Chris R.
Chris S.
Jared
Nick
Phil

The Ugly
A.J.
Brandon
Sanjaya

Well, there it is. The guys were better this week, but that's not saying a lot.

Who should go home: Brandon, Sanjaya
Who will go home: A.J., Brandon

Those are my picks; I think that the only people who are safe are TCFKS, Sanjaya, New Papi and Chris R. Everyone else is in play.

We'll see how this plays out tomorrow on DialIdol and Thursday night.

High Lord. Out.

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I had a meeting tonight and just got in a few minutes ago (it ran over). Dammit, doesn't everyone know I watch American Idol on Tuesdays!?!?!?!

Anyway, I'm going to watch the tape (no, I don't have TiVO) and I'll blog it here in a minute.

I caught TCFKS, but no one else. I also want to say that it seems that the judges are spending a lot of time rambling and I wish they'd use that time to let the singers sing.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

My take on Antonellagate

By now, everyone has heard that some racy pictures/videos featuring GBF have surfaced on the internet. Jennifer over at Idoling Along has posted a link to an interview with Nigel who says that American Idol has no comment about the pictures that have been posted.

Among the blogosphere and the AI fanatics, there has been considerable speculation about them kicking Antonella off the show for this. The precedent was set in season 2 when Frenchie Davis was given the boot after it was learned that she posed topless for an internet site to earn some tuition money.

As I understand Antonella's situation, she didn't pose for a website, nor did she release the photos and videos. It seems that one of her "friends" has released them, apparently in an attempt to embarrass her or for the "friend" to make some money.

I'm not sure that Fox will kick her off for this. Yes, they've gotten rid of people mid-season before. However, in the instances of Frenchie and Corey, it wasn't necessarily that they did anything improper, it was they didn't tell Fox/Fremantle/19E about it first.

Bo had a drug possession charge. Someone else (I forget who) had been charged with shoplifting. Yet, they were still allowed to compete because they didn't omit or lie about it.

If someone other than Antonella put these pictures and videos out on the internet, and she was not paid for them, I don't think Fox really can do anything. After all, if they asked, "Have you ever posed naked for an internet site and been paid?", she can legitimately say, "No."

That someone took her picture while she was on spring break in Cancun (or where ever) is immaterial.

Another difference is that in season 2, once Frenchie was eliminated, the competition came down to Clay vs. Rueben. No one else had a shot. Frenchie was the only one who had a chance against those two boys. Even K-Lo was in over her head.

This year, no one should have any illusions about Antonella winning. She'll be lucky to make the top 12. However, this latest revelation could propel her into the top 12 if she's perceived as the victim of these circumstances, not the perpetrator.

Antonella has been given an inordinate amount of face time. According to DialIdol, she was the second highest vote-getter despite her singing being largely panned. She's also the only who has been seen (on the show) in a bikini. I think the teenie-boppers like her. Couple that with her "exposure" in the audition and Hollywood rounds, and she's got TCO written all over her.

Let's see if Fox keeps that angle on her, or if they drop her like they did to FRC halfway through season 4.

In a related note, I hope everyone (especially parents) take this opportunity to warn their children about doing stupid things nowadays.

I think it's safe to say that all of us have done things in our lives that we're not proud of. We've done some things that may have been illegal, in poor taste or just plain stupid. In some cases, our friends knew about it and in some cases even our parents knew about it (sometimes because the state troopers let them know).

However, the whole world didn't know about it. Well, the world will know about it now, especially if you're famous.

In 2006, Time magazine named YouTubeas the "Invention of the Year". This allows anyone to post a video for the entire world to see, or at least that portion of the world that has internet access. So now embarrassing videos aren't just for you and a small group of friends, they're for everyone.

It's not that we live in a day and time when sensationalism is worse than it has ever been before. It's not. We have always been attracted to scandals, especially those involving sex. Go back 20 years, 50 years or 200 years and the lacivious tales were as attractive then as now.

The difference is that now it seems that everyone has a cellphone camera or pocket digital camera, and almost all of those devices take video, too. They're also extremely portable and easy to hide, so even if you don't think someone might be recording your moment of shame, they could be.

An expression I used to hear was "Don't write anything in an email you wouldn't want read back to you by a court reporter." Now, maybe that should be changed to, "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to watch yourself doing on YouTube."

We also live in a time when girls, often after being plied with a little bit of cash and maybe some alcohol, seem very eager to expose themselves for a video camera and these sorts of things will almost always come back to bite you in the butt. I've heard of RAs in dorms going on Facebook and MySpace and seeing residents posting pictures of themselves doing things that are against the dorm rules (and often illegal), effectively busting themselves.

Also in the era of Facebook and MySpace, if you let one of your "friends" take a topless picture of you or you and your boyfriend tape yourselves having sex, when you part ways, there is a good chance that those embarrassing photos/videos will get on to the internet.

In the high school where I teach, there is drama every day. Kids who are best friends on Monday hate each other on Tuesday, make up on Wednesday, gang up on someone else on Thursday and go back to hating each other on Friday.

We used to do mean things to each other back in high school. However, 15 years ago, we didn't have all the mechanisms to let the world know about our drama. Those mechanisms exist today.

I hope that this episode may educate young people about the dangers of posting embarrassing pictures on MySpace or LiveJournal. Not only are colleges looking at stuff like this, but employers are, too.

Why do something stupid for a guy with a video camera? There's a distinct possibility that someone who may be interesting in hiring you will see that video. There's also a distinct possibility that your great-aunt Matilda will see it, too.

As for Antonella, we'll see how this plays out for her, but I think it's also safe to say that she won't be the last American Idol singer (or reality TV star) to have something "appear" out of the blue because of a cameraphone and the internet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

American Idol, Top 24, The Results

I should know better than to schedule a program on the same night as American Idol. Just to be fair, when I booked a couple of these programs, I thought Idol would be on Mondays and Tuesdays with the results on Wednesdays, so I wouldn't miss any shows by scheduling programs on Thursdays.

At least tonight it was only the results.

Confession Time: I did not watch the show. I taped it, but I'm not going to watch it. Part of the reason is that I already know who gets whacked. Idol was on in the dorm where I was having my program, so I got to see Rudy's farewell. The other reason why I'm not going to watch is that I don't want to see all of the false suspense that comes on "execution" night and stringing out what should be a ten minute results show into an hour-long crapstravaganza.

I might turn it on tomorrow just to watch the group sing, though.

On to the actual results. Paul is in the BAG (pun intended), which is no surprise. He was bad on Tuesday and needs to worry more about singing than being barefoot and not changing his underwear.

Rudy wasn't awful, but he certainly didn't help himself with song selection.

According to Jennifer at IdolingAlong, Amy got blindsided in the same kind of cheap stunt they pulled on Judd. I may go back to watch that just so when I rip Fox, I can say I actually saw it happen. While being cruel is the name of the game, Amy had no chance of winning, especially in a field of women as strong as this year's.

The other girl to get sent packing is Nicole, who was so forgettable, I had to check with Laura at Idol Review just to remember what she sang. Again, no surprise since I think it's fair to say that the winner will probably not be a guy or a white girl.

Just sayin'.

That leaves us with a field that is strong at the top, healthy in the middle and still has some dead weight at the bottom end. It's too bad Fox picked Sanjaya as a TCO because Idol is going to chew him up and spit him out. I'm sure John Stevens is still paying for the therapy.

According to DialIdol, TCFKS, Sanjaya, Chris R., Lakisha, GBF and Melinda to be safe while everyone else was statistically in danger of getting whacked. Meanwhile, Vote for the Worst has picked TCFKS and GBF as their standard bearers, so it will be interesting to see if the early TV time coupled with these two tools will keep them around.

That's it for me tonight. I may watch the show tomorrow; if I do, I'll post some more notes. Thanks to Jennifer for keeping me up to date.

High Lord. Out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

American Idol, Top 24, The Girls

After watching the snoozefest that was the guys last night, it's time for the girls to bring their game and hopefully they'll sing some songs that aren't right out of the American Idol (Overused) Songbook.

In some other news, I checked over at DialIdol and according to their numbers from last night, TCFKS (thanks to Jennifer over at IdolingAlong, it stands for The Contestant Formerly Known as Sundance), Sundance and Chris R. are the ones who are safe. Everyone else is in jeopardy of getting sent home tomorrow.

They have an 85% success rate, so it will be interesting to see if that holds up again this year. Of course, that means Sanjaya (who looks like he is going to have a John Stevens-like implosion at some point if he makes the top 12) and JasonHead won't be getting whacked even though they were two of the worst performers last night. I guess it helps when Fox wants you to stick around, as they apparently do with these two.

I'm watching the show right now and we're 10 minutes in and they're still stuck on the filler. I understand the obligatory montage of the girls, but why are they still talking about the guys and Chris Sligh insulting Simon at the 8 minute mark?

Dayum, I love "Fast Forward". Don't you wish you could TiVO your life? Kind of like in that Adam Sandler movie "Click!" only without Adam Sandler?

One other thing, last night I erroneously wrote "they're letting him sing" but it turns out that they aren't letting the kids sing. Each person only gets 90 seconds. That's 18 minutes of singing in a two hour show.

To me, that's deplorable.

Get rid of the filler. Get rid of the tears and the pandering for votes. Cut back on the product placement and the useless blather from the judges. I want to see and hear singing, dammit!

Going in the Dead (Wo)man's Spot for the girls is Stephanie. Let's hope she does better than Rudy. At least there's no bullseye on her chest. The show is at the 15 minute mark before there is any singing. Sad. Sad. Sad. Stephanie looks comfortable on stage and although her vocals aren't spectacular, I see a lot of LaToya London in her, and that's a good thing since LaToya should have won season 3. Simon says she's playing to win and in the process, he (rightfully) slams all 12 guys who sang on Tuesday.

Next up is Amy, who I don't remember seeing in the auditions and Hollywood. She's singing "I Can't Make You Love Me" and it's the wrong song for her. My grandmother called and she wants her living room curtains back. I wasn't impressed by either the performance or the vocals. I wouldn't go so far to say that she was bad, but this was the kind of performance we saw last night (safe, boring), and it might get her canned tonight. Not quite bottom 3, but she could be on the bubble.

In the three-hole is professional dog-walker Leslie. Why would anyone want to walk a dog? Don't people know that exercise only makes dogs stringy? Her song is "Natural Woman", one of those songs that seems easy, but is deceptively difficult. She doesn't screw it up, but she's not great either. Plus, she's smiling while she's singing, so it doesn't look like her nerves have gotten the best of her.

I really like being able to FF through the judge's running their yaps.

Coming up fourth is Sabrina, who is very pretty and we haven't heard much out of. I like her song choice, but I don't like her trying so many tricks with the song. It sounds like she should be in a gospel band, not on American Idol. She's showing off her pipes early, which might be a good move, but still, I'd like to see some more out of her. I think she's also out to win.

The not-evil half of the bikini-clad BFF pair, Antonella, is fifth to go and pitchy makes his first appearance. She's also trying to do too much with the song. Just sing the melody!!!! Her song selection is one of those power ballads that shows trying not to lose. Of all the girls, she is the closest to a TCO this year and she's got a good voice. But does her close association with superbitch BFF get her in trouble? Or does all that expose, get her votes? I'm still undecided, although I don't think she's in any danger of going home.

Jordin is next, and she comes off as being a lot more mature than 17 years old. I don't think she'll crack like Sanjaya will. I like the arrangement, and while I don't care for this song, I think it puts her in a good position. She's energetic and has the crowd on its feet. She's also playing to win.

How is it that all the girls are taller than Ryan? Did I mention how much I'm liking this fast-forward-through-the-judges thing?

At the top of the second half is Nicole, who I think (in an unfounded snap judgment) is only there to get canned. She could surprise me, but she looks like any number of other college girls who was the lead in the school play and sings all the solos at church. Her performance isn't bad and she's actually got a good voice. She could make the top 12, but I don't think she's got a chance to win.

Tonight's 8-ball is Haley, who made Randy and Simon's tongues hang out with her backless outfit. Oh, no . . . she's dead . . . not Celine . . . To be fair, her voice is good, but this could be a trainwreck . . . She had a couple of pitch problems (sharp) but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I think she needs to stay away from power ballads. Not bad, but not good either.

Melinda is next. She is a background singer and my first impression is that she has a really, really big head. Like . . . Giada de Laurentis big. Let's see how she sings. She's good. You can tell she's a seasoned performer because she's not intimidated by the stage. Like the other older singers we've seen (Bo, Constantine, LaToya), she gives a good accounting for herself, and justifies raising the upper age limit. If she had gone last night, she would have wiped the floor with ALL of the guys.

At the X spot we have Alaina who looks like she has never eaten an entire sandwich. At least she made Simon drool. She's above average, and in some of the other company tonight, she could get lost. I think her performance tonight was better than about 7 of the guys, but having to follow Melinda might not be a good thing for her. At least she's getting to sing late in the show, always a good omen. Randy says she was pitchy, but I didn't hear that. Paula says she phoned it in and she may be right.

Getting the almost pimp spot is Gina an American Idol recidivist. She made it to Hollywood last year and is top 24 this year. She starts out too low, singing a song that LaToya blew away in season 3. She hits the big note at the end, which is good. The rest of the performance is rather plain, but I think she's easily safe until next week. I'd put her on the bubble to make the top 6 girls right now.

Finally, in the Pimp Spot is the obvious female TCO for this year, Lakisha, who I am going to start calling CSM (Crying Single Mom). She could be this year's Frenchie or her penchance for bursting into tears could cause her to self-destruct. Her voice is good and big, but she, too, might be better suited to Gospel Idol, not American Idol, because of all the things she does to the song (as opposed to just singing it).

The Good
Jordin
Lakisha
Melinda
Stephanie

The Bad
Alaina
Amy
Antonella
Gina
Haley
Leslie
Nicole
Sabrina

The Ugly
No one


I think it's pretty safe to say that a female is going to win this year. Unlike the guys, none of them were bad, and some of the girls came out trying to win. Sure there were some safe performances, but no one tonight came out sucking.

Are we going to see another situation like season 3 when the front-runners were three young black women? Or is anyone else going to step up?

Randy would advance 4 guys and 8 girls, and he's probably right. There are going to be two (maybe three) girls who are going to get robbed because of the Fox-mandated gender balance. It makes me want the wild card round back when 8 people were voted through, each judge chose one eliminated person to come back and the fans picked the 12th finalist.

That's it for me. Let me know what you guys thought.

High Lord. Out.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

American Idol, Top 24

Here we are, a few minutes from showtime. We're down to 12 guys and 12 girls, right on the eve of the singing rounds. We've seen some snippets of each of the 24 singers and tonight we get to hear the guys over the next two hours. I should be grading papers, but I'm not.

I hope we get to hear all of them actually sing for a couple of minutes, not just 60 seconds of singing and then an hour and a half of inane blather. Or maybe, better yet, we'll get introduced to all of them and then hear them sing. That would certainly level the playing field, something I've been calling for over the past three or so seasons.

This year, Fox has done a much better job of not handing people votes so obviously; they've been rather subtle about it, with the exception of showing Antonella in a bikini. Everyone else they've shown early has gotten whacked (Army girl, Bailey, etc.).

So who does that leave us? For the most part, 24 Melinda Liras (or Celena Raes or pick your obscure American Idol singer who wasn't shown much during the auditions and Hollywood). We did get to see a couple of the singers earlier, like beat-box boy (henceforth to be known as BBB), the guy who wants to make David Hasselhoff cry, the barefoot asian guy (hereafter referred to as BAG), the guy who blew off the birth of his daughter for the American Idol auditions (New Papi), the guy who got through but left his sister behind, and an early TCO, Sundance Head (the Steven Harwell look-alike).

After a useless introduction montage of all tonight's singers and some (gasp!) advertising, we have Rudy going in the dreaded lead-off spot. We get a short video and now he's singing disco. Not only that, but he's got a bullseye on his shirt; not a good sign. At least they're letting them sing. Not the best voice, but he's good on stage. Randy thought it was cheezy, which it was. Paula loved it (of course). Simon didn't think he was memorable. Definite bottom 3 material.

Next up is Brandon, a former backup singer who's just happy to be there. He's doing too many funky things with the song; just sing the melody. Leave the runs at home. What's with the disco tonight? This is two in a row. I think there is a reason why he is a backup singer. If he makes it to the top 12, I see him solidly in the second tier, but definitely not one of the leaders. The judges just said what I did. Why am I not on the panel for this show?

Going third is Smashmouth, who Simon crowned early in the process. He's had a lot of TV time already, and I think that's going to carry him for a few weeks. He also needs to learn to just sing the song and not do too much with his above average voice. I am very underwhelmed by Sundance. He's trying to show off his big voice, but it doesn't really work for him. The judges rightfully pan him.

A quarter of the way through the guys, and I wonder how any of them made it. They are floundering. No one is outright bad, but given the opportunity to jump out to an early lead and grab some fans early, the first three guys have come up short.

Batting cleanup is BAG, who is sure to be a favourite of my friend Senkeh. He's singing Wham! and that isn't a good sign. His pitch is off. Flat. Boring. I do not care for the song or the performance. And the falsetto is bad. He could be gone on Thursday. The judges are going to destroy him. Why isn't Randy "Song Selection" Jackson crucifying him? Even Paula can't find nice things to say about him. Simon (rightfully) takes him to task.

Next up is Chris R., who Randy compared to Justin (Timberlake). At first, I though Big Dawg was talking about Guarini, but thankfully, he wasn't. Chris is either a waiter or a busboy (in the restaurant business). What's with the bouncing up and down move he's got? He's not great, but not awful either. His song selection is better than any of the guys who have gone before him (and that's not saying a lot). Simon said his voice was smaller than the song, and he's right.

Wrapping up the first half of the singers is Nick who is a dead-ringer for Joseph from season four (the year of the Judd debacle). He's also a re-tread, having been to Hollywood before, but removing himself from competition because he cracked. His song selection is no better than anyone else's. Nick has some pitch problems, but like the other guys, he's is 100% forgettable. Why is no one having that Bo Bice "Drift Away" top 24 performance? They're all picking crappy songs.

Beginning the second hour is BBB, who looks like Travis from So You Think You Can Dance. An early favourite (not quite TCO, though), Blake says he's going to sing, not resort to stunts. I actively dislike this song, but he's actually doing a pretty good job. Except for a couple of stray notes, I thought he is the best of the night, so far. The judges like him and they're right.

Sanjaya gets to go next. He's gotten enough TV time to qualify as a TCO, but the makeover team needs to declare a class D emergency and get him a haircut. Being 17 might hurt him because young singers have a tendency to crack and having seen his sister get whacked may get into his head. Of course, being heartbroken over his sister's ouster may also have handed him a bunch of votes, too. I'm not blown away by him. They showed his audition footage and he was worse than I remembered. His vocals are uninspired at best. Close to awful, I'd put him in the bottom 3.

The number nine singer is Mophead, the Jack Osbourne look-alike who is afraid of no American Idol joke and apparently doesn't fear alienating everyone in Alabama. He seems like the guy who was the captain of the Brain Brawl team at your high school. You know the guy I'm talking about: he knows "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" backwards and forwards, was editor of the yearbook staff, has a collection of 600+ Star Wars action figures, but was also likable enough to have made homecoming court. He picks a good song and from his intro piece, he knows that this is a competition and he is positioning himself to win with a song that distinguished himself from the rest of the field. The vocal itself wasn't spectacular, but at this stage, he doesn't need to be. He just needs to build himself a sizable (and fanatical) voting bloc and not get kicked off. I think he'll go far.

Next up is Jared in the ten-spot. Jared lost his job as a waiter in New York (where you don't get free refills on soda) for American Idol. He's pretty good and in this crowd tonight, that should guarantee him a spot on next week's show. I think the girls are going to vote for this guy and if he perform anything other than chick-songs, guys might vote for him, too. I wasn't crazy about him, but if the object is not to be the slowest antelope in the herd, he won't be asking "Can I start you off with an appetizer?"

Second to last is AJ, who is a repeat auditioner. This was at least his second trip to Hollywood, so lets see if his persistence pays off. Let's see if he knows how to play the game. He's also going with the disco theme, and that's not necessarily good. At least he's going towards the end of the order, which usually bodes well. His pitch is off in a couple of places, but he's got Paula dancing while Simon looks on like he's trying to pass an extra-large deep-dish pan pizza that was loaded up with extra-cheese. I wasn't crazy about him, but I think he'll make it at least another week.

New Papi gets the Pimp Spot in the first show of the season. He's from my second hometown of Jacksonville and in the Navy; I'll have to find out if he's at NAS Jax or Mayport. Oh, God, not Edwin McCain . . . and he's flat. Bye, bye, Phil . . . Man, this is painful. If he makes it through to next week, it will be a near miracle. I've got kids in my American History who have a better chance of getting a C than this guy has of advancing to next week. His story might make for good TV, but that was horrid. He got better at the end, but the first 20 seconds were rough. Very rough. Did Randy and I hear the same performance? Best of the night. Not by a mile. Simon is dead-on. For me, he's bottom 3 and I'd send him home, even after getting to go last. Every sailor in the Navy needs to vote for this guy over the next two hours to keep him around.

The Good
Blake
Chris S.

The Bad
A. J.
Brandon
Chris R.
Jared
Nick
Rudy
Sundance

The Ugly
Paul
Phil
Sanjaya

Here's my advice for the girls: Go out on a limb. Sing good songs. Stay away from disco and power ballads. This is the first time that many of these people have been seen before, so why not let it all hang out and go for it? Playing it safe is the quickest way to get whacked by the fickle voting public.

I understand that people don't want to peak early (like Ace did last year with "Father Figure") but that's no excuse to pick bad songs. I think a lot of the guys are playing not to get kicked off; they're not playing to win. The sole exception was Mophead, who knows how to play the game, but doesn't come off as smarmy as Constantine did.

Ryan says Simon is being negative, which he's not. Simon is being honest and given that Simon is usually right, Ryan needs to not be picking on the one judge who isn't drunk half the time or bound up using the same three unintelligible expressions over and over.

For tonight, the big winners were Chris S. and Blake, both of whom had more TV time early on than some of the other singers. Sanjaya hurt himself with a weak song choice, as did Paul. Phil should also be in the bottom 3, but since he has had some TV time and gotten some sympathy with his newborn daughter, it should make up for the shaky (and flat) first third of the song.

Those are my bottom 3 picks, but I've been wrong before. Next up are the girls, so let's see if they've got bigger balls than the guys or if they play it safe, too.

High Lord. Out.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My wishes for American Idol

I know you guys may be tired of reading the same things year after year, but I think some of them bear repeating.

Here is what I want from American Idol this year:

  • Fewer TCOs
    For those of you who don't know, TCO stands for "The Chosen One". They are the handful of singers who Fox picks to advance. They give them extra face time, show them at home and hand them votes through sympathy rather than their singing. Kellie Pickler once held this title.

    I think we've started to see less of it this year, even though some singers have been shown on TV more than others. At least it's not as blatant as it has been in the past (cough . . . Constantine . . . cough!).

  • Less product placement, less drivel, more singing
    Last year, when there were 8 singers left, each got to sing for 90 seconds. Then we had to listen to inane rambling by Randy, incomprehensible yapping from Paula and something caustic from Simon before being given the voting numbers from Ryan. And don't forget the inevitable Ford, Cingular (AT&T Wireless or whatever the hell they're calling themselves now) and Coca-Cola spots. That amounted to 12 minutes of singing in a 60 minute show.

    And this is supposed to be a singing show!!!!!!

    The way the show goes, that 90 seconds everybody gets amounts to one verse, one chorus and one power note to end. I think it's unconscionable for people to be judged and pandering for votes based on a minute and a half of actual time. Why not cut back on the judges's time. Or how about cutting out Ryan's post-song interview that doesn't really amount to anything.

    On Rock Star, they actually get to sing. Let American Idol do the same.

  • No manufactured drama
    I know the executions are supposed to be "suspenseful" but after some of the stunts they've pulled in the past (especially the way they whacked Judd two years ago) have been cruel and unnecessary. The results are dramatic enough without all the crap they put those kids through. Give them a straight-up, "you're safe" or "you're gone" without all the tripe.

  • Good theme nights
    I hate the musician theme nights. Not everybody can sing Gloria Estefan songs. Go with general themes. Movie tunes. Disco. Country. Rock N' Roll. Bubblegum pop.

    Just don't bring on acts who are only going on the show to pimp their latest album. If you're going to use guest artists, make sure they can help and coach the young pop stars along. Stay away from the has-beens.

  • The High Lord's Themes
    Speaking of themes, here are some I would like to see:

    The Wheel of Death
    Everyone spins a wheel right before they go on stage. No one gets any rehearsal time. It's all karaoke. You might get "My Way" or you might get "My Heart Will Go On" or you might get "Baby Got Back". [Dickie V voice=on]Survival of the fittest, baby!!![/Dickie V voice]

    Screw Your Buddy Night
    Everyone draws a name out of a hat. They then have to pick a song for that person. The only catch is that there is no reciprocal song picking, so it eliminates the chances for retribution. Do you pick an easy song ("Open Arms" by Journey) or a hard song ("One Week" by Barenaked Ladies)? Do you pick an easy song to look good for the fans or do you pick an impossible song to get someone kicked off for flubbing the lyrics.

    Duets night
    Instead of singing individually, partners are randomly selected (as on So You Think You Can Dance) and then the pair has to sing together. Do they pick a song by a single artist and trade verses or a song that has two distinct pairings? This could be really cool; we'd get to hear "Promiscuous" or "Bring Me to Life" sung properly on American Idol. "America" would still get to vote for individuals, but they have to sing together.

  • A good competition
    More than anything, I'd like to see a good strong field of contestants. Not like season two when only one or two people had a chance of winning, but more like last year when anyone in the top 5 could have won.

That's my list. What do you want for this year?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The final carnage

I think I've figured out why this season has been so unpleasant to many American Idol fans, and I'm here to take full credit.

Yes, I think Nigel and his buddies have been drinking the High Lord's Kool Aid and have seen the light.

During the audition rounds we didn't see too many of the sob or "inspirational" stories that hand people votes. You know the kind I'm talking about; they're the ones that handed Scott Savol and Kellie Pickler millions of votes over the course of their seasons.

Of the sob stories we saw this year, many of those people have already been whacked. Army girl, Navy guy, Bailey, the girl Simon brought back for a second chance . . . all gone.

I think the reason they have done this is because they realise that in the long run, handing people votes who do not necessarily deserve them hurts the credibility of the show in the long run. Let's face it, the longer Private Pyle hung around, the more people thought the show was a joke. Same thing with Kellie Pickler.

If American Idol wants to be taken seriously as a singing competition, they need to advance the best singers, not the most "compelling" (read: ratings boosting) stories. I also think Taylor Hicks winning last year had something to do with this decision.

Taylor, while a likable guy, isn't the most marketable. Chris and Katharine were. However, since Taylor won, in no small part due to all the hype he received due to his unique style. And it bit Simon Fuller in the butt because he had to sign Taylor and he had to market him as the next American Idol, even though--be truthful--he isn't what an American Idol should be.

So now we're at the point where the top 24 will be announced. Some of the singers have been showcased already (Antonella in a bikini, no less) and some have not. I think this levels the playing field, something I have been calling for over the past two or three years, and if this is the reason, I applaud Fox.

Of course, that meant they saddled us with eight audition shows that were borderline unbearable, but since some people enjoy watching the trainwrecks, it makes for good TV.

So here's a tally of who's through (if I don't have any notes, it's because I hadn't seen them before or nothing stood out):

Sanjaya (1)- the brother who could sing better than his sister
Melinda (1)- don't remember her
Brandon (2)- don't remember him
Gina (2)- third time is the charm
Haley (3) - if they show you singing, you're going on
Phil (3) - skipping his baby's birth is going to get him votes
Chris (4)- is he the guys who wants to make David Hasselhoff cry? If so, that is not only funny, but should also get him votes
Blake (5)
Rudy (6)
Paul (7)- the Asian guy who's not William Hung
Jordin (4) - a bunch of people are getting through so that means we're about to see a lot of people getting whacked
A.J. (8)
Stephanie (5)
Leslie (6)
Nicholas (9) - quitters can get through to the voting rounds
Alaina (7) - I was not impressed by her singing
Chris (10)
Sabrina (8)
Lakisha (9) - single mom means votes (ie-Fantasia)
Nicole (10)
Jared (11)
Amy (11)
Antonella (12)
Sundance (12)

And here's are the people who are not:

Anna - super tall girl
Bernard - some guy we didn't see
Eric - didn't see him either
Tammy - Janis Joplin girl
Jimmy - don't know him
Eric - never saw him
Thomas
Olivia
Tatiana
Monique
Jerome
Joelle
Matthew - the third of last year's cowboys who could actually sing
Princess
Marisa
Thomas

As usual, they bring in the final two guys and the final two girls in together.

It's Marisa or Antonella and the hawt friend makes it; Marisa gets whacked. For the guys, Sundance or Thomas. Sundance gets sent through.

Are the 16 people who got canned out of the top 40 still eligible to return next year? I know getting cut in Hollywood doesn't disqualify someone from trying out in the future, but at this point, can they try out again?

It's good that everyone was shown singing at some point, even though some people got more face time than others, it wasn't as overt this season as last year. I think this only helps the competition in the long run, and remember, it's all because of me.

Just two notes un-related to American Idol:

Did you ever think you would hear "Blister in the Sun" on a commercial? And for Wendy's, no less?

In other news about commercials, I saw the funniest one the other day. It's where William Shatner knocks on a guy's door, zaps him with a taser and then logs on to Priceline to get him a good deal on travel. The kid asks, "Did you just zap daddy?" Shatner replies, "No . . . yes, I zapped your daddy." Funny as hell.

We're on a two-hour delay tomorrow, with more bad weather allegedly coming our way tonight. I wonder if that means we'll be out of school again tomorrow. I hope not; if I'm not at school, I don't get paid.

Anyway, I'm excited for this year, so let's hope people step up for the singing rounds.

High Lord. Out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

[randy voice=on]It's Hollywood, baby!!!![/randy voice]

Here we are at Hollywood. 172 people made it and most of them are going to get whacked after the first day. My friend Jennifer calls this "Hell Week" and we're going to see who cracks and who can stand the heat.

Just a quick prediction before we really get started: The winner will be older, over the age of 20. I think the younger singers cannot hack it. With the sole exception of Diana DeGarmo and her unnatural beauty queen stage presence, I simply don't think anyone under the age of 18 has what it takes to stick with the grind of week after week competition. Of course, I could be wrong (it won't be the first time).

How about them cutting the entire first group. I thought the person going in the one-hole was actually pretty good so I wonder if they whacked everyone as a message and a head game rather than based on actual performances. To be fair, the rest of them were either mediocre or bad or flat (or all three).

It seems like they're cutting a lot of girls, which could be good or bad. Are they making snap judgments too quickly or did they really put too many people through to the Hollywood rounds?

Why do we have to see all this drama? Of course, that's the purpose of Hollywood. A couple of shows worth of contrived stuff before the real singing begins.

Now it's the guys's turn and we'll see how they do. There are only 58 guys after 12 spots as opposed to 114 girls for the same 12 spots, so mathematically, the odds are better for the guys. We'll see if they get whacked at the same rate (about 50% going home) of if they level the guy/girl mix.

The guys seemed to survive the first cuts and next up is the infamous group sing and all of the accompanying drama. I love this stage. In the past, some people say, "Why do they do this? American Idol is about individual singers!"

The obvious answer is that because group sings are so pervasive on results nights, that they have to be good at them.

Are we seeing the inevitable Amanda-Antonella meltdown? Or is this something that was staged for TV so they can make up later?

Why do people treat Hollywood like one big scamfest? Don't these kids realise that Hollywood is a business trip?

I was no big fan of Mario, but he went with that attitude and that's really what it is. The golden ticket gets everyone a seat at the table, but it's no guarantee. So why do people spend all of Hollywood flirting and hanging out in the hot tubs? If it were me in Hollywood, I would be in full business mode.

All I would do is sing, sing and sing some more. That's why people are there, right?

And why can't people remember their lyrics? For a night, that's your job!

So now we're in three rooms. They whack one group and keep the other two.

Mrs. High Lord is very happy that super-bitch Amanda gets canned. I am, too.

That leaves us with 40 people go be chosen for the top 24, which we will find out tomorrow.

It seems to me that Hollywood used to take two full weeks instead of two shows. Is that right or is my memory faulty? It is the second thing to go, you know.

That's it for me. I think for the most part, the good ones were put through. I'm looking forward to the top 24 tomorrow.

High Lord. Out.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

American Idol: San Antonio

We've got a school day tomorrow and I'm debating on whether to watch the whole show or not. I'm really tired of seeing all the bad singers and not enough of the good ones.

In other news, there is a petition to bring back Sherman Pore for the American Idol Finale. So far over a thousand people have "signed" the petition. I urge you to do so as well.

Shouting guy didn't get through and that's good. Hot girl with the backless outfit will get through whether she can sing or not; Simon's tongue is hanging out of his mouth. Everyone's friend Pitchy shows up a couple of times, but she's okay. Randy and Simon are both playing coy, but they put her through anyway (no surprise there).

The whole "other door" thing is getting kind of old. Why couldn't both doors be unlocked? And Randy says American Idol isn't meaner this year.

How many people have they shown making it through from San Antonio? Two? Three?

The other day, I was thinking that this whole "let's only show the bad people" may be what I've been hoping for all along. That is, they're levelling the playing field by only showing us bad people and the people they know get whacked on the first day of Hollywood so that the playing field is level.

Instead of handing people votes early in the competition (Scott Savol, Kellie Pickler), they're giving a portion of the viewing audience exactly what they want (bad auditions) while sitting on the good singers who have by now already made it through to Hollywood and presumably are already in the top 24.

If this is the case, congrats to American Idol for listening to my suggestions and not giving some singers (Ace Young) and advantage over others (Melinda Lira). Of course, they could just be mean-spirited jackasses and they're handing some people a lot of votes (crack baby) while sitting on everyone else.

Well, that's the end of the audition shows and I am underwhelmed. I am seriously considering skipping all of next year's audition shows and not tuning in until Hollywood. I just don't want to see bad singers.

After one more audition show tomorrow (which I will probably skip), next week, it's on to Hollywood!

High Lord. Out.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl thoughts

This year, Mrs. High Lord and I skipped all the Super Bowl parties, didn't go out and just stayed home to watch the game. Going in, all I wanted was a good game. I didn't quite get that, but at least it wasn't a blowout.

Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • Why were people always knocking Peyton Manning again? He couldn't win the Big One? Why does that matter?

    I heard Ron Jaworski saying how all quarterbacks are judged based on the number of championships they win. By this train of thought, Ron just said that Jim Plunkett, Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Phil Simms, Jeff Hostetler and Mark Rypien are better quarterbacks than Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgenson and Fran Tarkenton.

    This, of course, is patently absurd. Quarterbacks get too much credit when their team wins (Terry Bradshaw) and too much blame when their teams lose (Jim Kelly).

    I think for all professional athletes, not winning a championship leaves something unfulfilled, but to say that their legacy is incomplete without a championship is wrong and it's irresponsible of the media to promote such a view. Is a military officer's career "incomplete" if he or she retires before being promoted to flag rank or without the Medal of Honor? Of course not.

    Now that he has won a Super Bowl and he's on pace to break every meaningful passing record, are we seeing the greatest quarterback of all time in action? Or does he have to win two (or three or four or five) in order to get that designation?

  • I know some people are saying that the game should always be played indoors, but how great was it to see the elements actually be a factor in the game? And how about those empty seats?

    You know . . . the ones that would ordinarily be filled by die hard fans, but at the Super Bowl, are taken by corporate underlings who really don't care about the game and when the wet stuff starts to fall, they go inside or back to their hotel.

    I'm not saying that the game should be played in the snow again, but keep it outdoors if that's what's available in the best city (Tampa, Miami, San Diego, Glendale). Plus . . . and here's a novel idea . . . make more tickets available to the folks who actually attend the games on a regular basis because those are the people who keep the league in business.

  • Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback will say that the Bears lost because they don't have cheerleaders.

  • The aforementioned Gregg Easterbrook, who has often said that prognosticators picking the home team will be right about 58-60% of the time, has been uncharacteristically silent on this topic this year. This may be due to the fact that home teams are something like 53% this year, or just a little better than flipping a coin.

  • I'm not sure that Rex Grossman is entirely to blame for Chicago's poor showing (after all, QBs get a disproportionate share of the blame) but the fact of the matter is that by going three and out so often, the Indianapolis offense was able to simply wear out the Bears defense. Hell, the Colts's opening drive of the second half was 7:30 long. There's no recovering from that.

    Sure they didn't get off the field, but when the offense doesn't move the ball, the defense can't rest.

  • I saw on the news today that there is a petition online to have the day after the Super Bowl declared a national holiday. The idea is to institutionalise the workplace absenteeism that occurs the Monday after the game under the name "Day of Champions", "American Sports Day", or my personal favourite, "National Recovery Day".

    You can read more here.

  • I thought Prince sucked. His music is hit or miss for me, and I think he's a little bit eccentric . . . not full-blown strange like Michael Jackson, but certainly not mainstream any more either. I think they could have done better.

  • My top three Super Bowl Commercials from this year:

    Oprah and Letterman

    Blockbuster's Mouse Click

    Bud Light's Rock Paper Scissors

    Of course, my all-time favourite ad is the eTrade Money Out the Wazoo ad.

    Speaking of Super Bowl ads, wasn't there supposed to be some guy who spent $2.6 million for 30 seconds to ask his girlfriend to marry him? What kind of idiot spends $2.6 million on a marriage proposal? Mrs. High Lord told me that while that seems romantic, $2.6 million will get us a really nice house, an around the world cruise in the best room on the Crystal Serenity, and neither of us would ever have to work again if we didn't want to. Did I miss this ad or did the guy come to his senses (or did the girl dump him before the big game?)?

  • Are the Colts the favourites to win it all again next year? I don't know at this point. Or is it the Patriots or the Chargers? I don't think the NFC has caught up with the AFC so to me it looks like the Colts are certainly in the mix and have as good a chance as any other team to repeat. We'll just have to see how many free agency defections they have.