Wednesday, May 20, 2009

American Idol Season 8
The Finale Results

KRIS ALLEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Note: Click on photos to enlarge)

We have to admit, we're surprised to be saying that this was one of the most entertaining "American Idol" finale shows ever. And, perhaps, the only performance show in recent memory that came in on time. After Ryan Seacrest warned us on Tuesday to set extra time on our DVR's because the show was going to run over, it actually ran just the 2 hrs. and 7 min. it was supposed to. It speaks to the entire season. Whereas in past seasons the show rarely ran past its allotted time except for the finale, Season 8 turned out to be the anomaly right down to the very last episode.

There were very few unwanted or slow moments in the finale, and most of the musical performances were as electric and enjoyable as we had hoped. Segments we could have lived -- happily -- without, included the always stupid Golden Awards Awards (well, perhaps except for the Katrina "Bikini Girl" Derrell one) and Rod Stewart, who has no voice left but doesn't know when to say "no" to an invitation to be a train wreck perform.

Ryan tells us there were just under 100 million votes -- the most ever -- though the David-David 2008 duel garnered 97.5 million votes, so the difference this year doesn't seem overwhelming. More interesting: Billy Bush tweeted that a source high up told him that the voting, in spite of what showed, was not close, while AT&T reports that about 38 million votes came from Arkansas, Kris Allen's home state. Unreal. Those people know how to back their hometown hero.

Before the opening number, Ryan brings out Adam Lambert and Kris Allen dressed in white suits. We see shots of their hometown parties, with Mikalah Gordon hosting in Conway, Ark., and Carly Smithson in San Diego. Carly says she couldn't bring it home for San Diego last year, but hopes Adam will this year. The city will be disappointed for the second year in a row. The opening number has the Top 13 all dressed in white as well to sing Pink's anthemic "So What." It is in the best cheesy "Idol" Group Song tradition, though poor Scott MacIntyre still looks like he's out of sync and lip-syncing. Gah, what's the tour going to be like with things like that?

Watch video of the Top 13 singing "So What"

Season 7 winner David Cook takes the stage to sing "Permanent" in tribute to his late brother Adam. He looks and sounds good. After he finishes, he tells Ryan, who looks slightly uncomfortable with the discussion, that the performance will go up on iTunes with all money being donated to research to end cancer. Cook tells Ryan that he's met broth Kris and Adam and that not only as both great singers, they are great guys, ending with, "I don’t know that America can get this wrong." During the past year, Cook has proved himself to be an Idol in every sense of the word and we applaud him.

Watch video of David Cook singing "Permanent"

The first moment we could have lived without arrives: the return of the Golden Idol Awards. The first award goes to Nick Mitchell/Normund Gentle who performs again. Sorry, it's not funny the fifth time. It's wasn't even funny the fourth time. Hit the fast forward button for the first time Wednesday night.

Lil Rounds joins Queen Latifah for the night's first duet, "Cue the Rain." It's not really our cup of tea, and in spite of who she's singing with, Lil still isn't being what the judges hoped all season she would turn out to be. Plus her vocals leave much to be desired. How could this woman have started the season as Idol's great female hope?

Watch video of Lil Rounds and Queen Latifah singing "Cue the Rain"

Back from commercial with Anoop Desai and Alexis Grace joining Jason Mraz to sing his hit "I'm Yours." We love this song, even if it was played about a thousand times on "Idol" this season, between the auditions and Hollywood Week. Unfortunately, Alexis, no longer dirrrty looking now that she's not competing on the show or even going on the tour, isn't sounding too good either, and Anoop certainly doesn't sound like he's at the top of his game. Are they overtired from too many rehearsals or is this just confirming that this season's crop of finalists were less than stellar with a few exceptions?

Watch video of Anoop Desai, Alexis Grace and Jason Mraz singing "I'm Yours"

When we first heard that Jason Mraz was going to be on the finale, we'd figured that he would be a natural matchup with Kris on a duet, since Kris is so often compared with him in style. So we were somewhat surprised to hear that Kris' duet would be with Keith Urban. But they fit -- and sang -- together perfectly. Their rendition of "Kiss the Girl" was one of our favorite segments of the evening. Kris seems a natural as a country star. More! More!

Watch video of Kris Allen and Keith Urban singing "Kiss the Girl"

The Top 13 girls sing "Glamorous," with painful solos by (especially) Megan Joy and Jasmine Murray. C'mon, why thehell were these two Wild Card choices? They s-u-c-k. This is all to introduce Black Eyed Peas with hot-looking Fergie to sing a censored version of "Boom Boom Pow."Watch video of Black Eyed Peas with Fergie singing "Boom Boom Pow"

Yes, yes, we know we said we hated the Golden Idol Awards, and we particularly hated "Bikini Girl" Katrina Darrell from her first smug appearance on Season 8. But having her back for the finale was worth it, if just to see Kara DioGuardi humiliate her. Sure, she was in on the joke, but it was still worth it. After they show Kara critiquing Katrina's audition and "Bikini Girl" tells Kara that *snap* "your demonstration wasn't any better," Ryan announces that Derrell has won the Best Attitude award. She bounces onstage in her bikini and new pair of knockers, courtesy of the Kellie Pickler School of Makeovers. She kisses Ryan and tells us, "And he kissed back this time." Seacrest then says to Derrell, "I was going to ask you what's new, but I think I know." Ryan asks her to take another shot at singing "Vision of Love." We hope she was intentionally singing that badly, but as she does, the curtain behind her opens and Kara begins to belt out the song. At the end, DioGuardi rips open her dress (for charity we find out later) to reveal a black bikini. Props to DioGuardi for the sketch and for the killer vocals. It's the most enjoyment she's provided all season.

Watch video of Bikini Girl Katrina Darrell face off with Kara DioGuardi

Allison Iraheta and Cyndi Lauper team up for "Time After Time," with Allison once again proving why she was the last female left standing. Lauper mostly plays the autoharp while Iraheta handles the majority of the vocals. It was a terrific and memorable pairing. How about bringing Lauper back as a mentor?

Watch video of Allison Iraheta and Cyndi Lauper singing "Time after Time"

Another pairing that works really well is Danny Gokey and Lionel Richie. Danny opens by singing "Hello." It's OK, but it ain't gonna make anyone forget David Cook's amazing Season 7 rendition, and why even remind them. It's isn't doing Gokey any favors. Richie comes out to join Gokey for more of Lionel's hits, ending with a fun and rousing version "All Night Long." Richie looks and sounds excellent and would also make a great mentor. It's another More! More! moment.

Watch video of Danny Gokey and Lionel Richie singing a medley of Richie songs

Next came THE singing moment of the night. Adam takes the stage to sing in a jacket with metal angel-like wings and HUGE platform shoes. Forget guyliner, he's got the whole guy makeup box on his face, complete with glittery guy shadow. Frankly, he looks fabulous. He begins to sing "Beth," but this is just a lead-in for his medley with KISS. They're decorative background as Adam breaks free and soars, almost literally bringing down the house on his last note of "Rock and Roll All Night." It leaves us breathless. The audience goes ber-serk. We wonder if Kris wins, are they gonna boo him? Yikes!

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing with KISS

Carlos Santana takes the stage for "Black Magic Woman." When the song hits the verse, Matt Giraud does the honors, later joined by the rest of the Top 13 for "Smooth." It is their best moment as a group for the night.

Watch video of the Top 13 and Santana performing "Black Magic Woman"

It's time for the last Ford commercial of the year, featuring highlights of ads from this season with Adam and Kris singing "I Will Remember You." They sound good together and hopefully will duet on tour. There's then a video of David Cook surprising Adam and Kris with the keys to their new Ford Fusions. Can we have one, too?

Watch video of Ford Commercial "I Will Remember You" and Kris Allen and Adam Lambert receiving Ford Fusions from David Cook

Michael Sarver and Megan Joy sing "Pretty Flowers" accompanied by Steve Martin on the banjo. The music is much better than the singing. He sounds OK but unimpressive, her voice is not only off key, but harsh sounding, as well. Just don't understand these two as Top 10 contestants when there were so many better than them in the Top 36.

Watch video of Megan Joy, Michael Sarver and Steve Martin singing "Pretty Flowers"

And then, the moment we coulda and shoulda lived without. The Top 13 guys sing "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" Answer (with a few exceptions): "No." This is a lead-in to guest performer Rod Stewart, who should be resting on his laurels rather than proving that his has no voice left. But, of course, if you've heard any of his standards CDs, you already knew that. He barely makes it down the stairs without falling (this is sad), then croaks his way through "Maggie May." And, oh, god, please stop trying to do dance moves. Between that and his horrid plaid tux jacket, he looks like a caricature of your drunk uncle from the worst family wedding video. He gets to the line: "You made a first-class fool out of me," and we're thinking, "Er, no, Rod, you did that to yourself," as Carrie Underwood, sitting prettily in the audience, graciously claps along to the beat. Man, Stewart actually made the Top 13 sound good. Scary.

Watch video of the Top 13 boys singing "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" and Rod Stewart singing "Maggie May"

Enough of the lowlights, it's time for another highlight, as Kris and Adam begin to sing "We Are the Champions" together, then are joined by Queen. Cool.

Watch video of Adam Lambert and Kris Allen singing "We Are the Champions" with Queen

Finally, it's the moment of truth. For the last time this season, Ryan calls for the lights to be dimmed. We're sure the majority of people watching thought that Adam had it in the bag, so we can't even imagine their shock when Ryan said "Kris Allen." Kris was so stunned, he started laughing, then told Ryan, "It feels good man, but Adam deserves this." Ha! No Idol ever said that before.

Must've really pissed off Simon, who was seen in one shot looking like he was really stewing over the call. He was rudely petulant, not even standing with the other three judges to applaud the newest Idol. Oh, well, Simon. There's always next year.

Watch video of Kris Allen winning American Idol

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

American Idol Season 8
The Finale Performances

BREAKING NEWS: According to TMZ, "Extra" correspondent Terri Seymour, who is also Simon Cowell's former girlfriend, was choked after attending the "American Idol" finale last night. It happened at L.A. Live, a complex that includes the Nokia Theatre where "A.I." was broadcast. A 33-year-old woman walked up to Seymour and asked if she was Cowell's girlfriend. The suspect allegedly attacked her and attempted to choke her. The suspect was booked on felony battery. Seymour apparently refused medical treatment.

Wow! An "Idol"-related felony and it wasn't committed by one of the contestants? LOL


Kris won the coin toss after last week's show and chose to sing last.


Adam Lambert:
"Mad World"
"A Change Is Gonna Come"
"No Boundaries" (coronation song)

Kris Allen:
"Ain't No Sunshine"
"What's Goin' On"
"No Boundaries" (coronation song)

Simon gives Round 1 to Kris
Simon gives Round 2 to Adam
Kara's "coronation song" sucks. Adam does better with it than Kris.
The night is somehow anticlimactic by the end.

Kris is currently 1.47 percentage points ahead on DialIdol (11:37 p.m. Tuesday Eastern Time). We'll update later.

It is now Wednesday morning. Everyone has finished voting except in Hawaii, where they still have 2 hours and 40 minutes to go. Although with the margin of error the contest could go either way, Kris Allen is leading Adam Lambert on DialIidol by 1.1 percent. If there were at least 100 million votes last night (and we're sure there were) that means that Kris could be leading Adam by a million votes. Not a lot in a contest like this. This could be the closest vote tally and biggest upset in "American Idol" history.

The performance show was very straightforward, very pedestrian and, frankly, a bit underwhelming. The electric charge that fills the Nokia Theater on such occasions may have been felt in Hollywood, but was largely absent on the other side of the TV screen, in spite of the 7,000 screaming fans in attendance, including Katie Holmes and daughter Suri Cruise, and actor Anthony Hopkins. The show's ending was a bit dull and anticlimactic. Presumably that will all change tonight, when anything can -- and probably will -- happen.

In a video preceding the first performance, Adam Lambert's parents talk about how their son was a screamer from birth. Adam adds: "I was very talkative, very hyperactive. I was bouncing off the walls all the time." He pauses and smiles, "Not much different than I am now, really." Ryan Seacrest introduces Adam's favorite song from the season, Tears for Fears' (actually it was the Gary Jules version of) "Mad World." The setting is very dramatic and theatrical. Adam, wearing slouchy boots, a full-length overcoat and little makeup, descends Idol's Stairway to Heaven in a blue-lit dry-ice fog-mist. He is a shadow figure enshrouded in blue mist for the first 32 seconds of the song. Finally, we see his face. He once again sings the song beautifully and perfectly, yet it isn't quite as stunning as the first time around, perhaps because we've seen it before.

Randy Jackson
loves the long coat and the fog and tells Adam, "I'm going to give you an A+ on that one, dude. An 'A' for Adam. " 'A.' "
Kara DioGuardi says, "From the first time you did that song, I knew not only that you were an extraordinary singer, but you are a creditable artist. And you changed the game up for every other contestant; made them think about what they were going to sing, and how they were going to sing it in a way that could compete with you. You rocked it again tonight."
Paula Abdul says "Hi Adam." He tells her, "You look beautiful." She: "Thank you. You look astonishingly handsome. I just want to tell you how unbelievably proud I am that you are standing on that stage right now. It's unbelievabe. Long journey. ... This is a great song for you. I loved when you performed it first and you gave a more subdued, introverted performance of it, still haunting. But right now, you gave a theatrical taste of what we're going to be able to see. I thought you did a brilliant job. Way to start the show.
Simon Cowell tells Adam, "I always thought this was your best performance throughout the shows. For some reason, maybe it was the coat, it was a little over-theatrical (the other judges and audience boo him, Adam smiles), it just reminded me a little bit of "Phantom of the Opera" (the judges start again, Randy screaming, "No, 'Twilight,' 'Twilight,'"). Adam says, "They told me they had dry ice and a thing to get me out of the stairs ..." Simon: "Dry ice, the long coat (pointing and laughing) Ryan in the sides ..." Yes, Simon is right, it was like "Phantom." Heh.

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "Mad World" by Tears for Fears

In his preperformance video, Kris Allen tells us he was a shy singer as a child and that his family had to pay him a quarter to sing to them. His mom says Kris then started charging more. But a few years ago, Kris started giving her song coupons for her birthday that she could redeem when she wanted to hear him sing. "That was the best gift e-vah," mom says. We are happy to hear that Kris' favorite song choice is Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." Allen accompanies himself on the piano, dressed very casually in a white T-shirt, vest and jeans. Although we hate the circling camera angles as he performs, this rendition is even better than the first time he sang the song. It is intense and soulful and arranged incredibly. Super impact. He just beat Adam in Round 1! A shock! His wife smiles broadly and nods approvingly in the audience. The camera pans to Simon. He is applauding, with a somewhat surprised look of his face, as if to say, "Kris just beat my boy."

Randy: "What I love so much about you is that I can tell exactly what kind of an artist you are, what kind of a record you're gonna make, and I think, me personally, I haven't heard the rest of the night, but, dude, you saved some of the best for last. That was one of your best performances EVER on the stage!" He then has a Kara-like orgasm: "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Kara: "I gotta agree with Randy. If you can't feel a Kris Allen performance, if he doesn't move you, there's something wrong with you. You have a way of creating an intimate bond with everybody in the audience. You make it feel like you're singing it to us. And that is so hard to do, and an incredible skill that you will kill on your album." Randy in the background saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
Paula: "Kris, you awaken the spirit in all of us and with your unique way of "Allenizing" your trademark all over -- not just this inspirational song, but every song you sing. And that's the true marking of a great artist." And, no, we're not going to clean up Kara and Paula's babbling. We're just typing it verbatim.
Simon: "Kris, look, I just think we've got to remember right now that this is a competition, right? And I like the fact. I'm going to be honest with you. When your name was announced last week, I wasn't sure whether America had made the right choice. But, but, (boos) I'm being honest. I absolutely take all that back now after that performance." Kris holds his head down and clenches his mouth. Is he trying not to cry?

Ryan asks: "Simon, Round 1 who wins? Simon: "I'm going to call that one for Kris."

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers

For Round 2, "Idol" creator Simon Fuller selected the songs for Adam and Kris. For Adam, he chose the wonderful Sam Cooke classic, "A Change Is Gonna Come." Dressed is a light gray suit and blue tie, Adam grabbed and held us from the beginning -- until the shrieking began. It killed the emotion and impact of the song -- you couldn't even understand the words in the latter half. It was the same mistake Adam made with U2's "One" last week. He's gotta learn to temper and finesse his use of that scream, because the rest of the song was just awesome. The judges, however, disagreed with our opinion.

Randy: "What you did right there, is you showed that the real reason that you're here, and I've been saying it from Day 1 that you walked in, is that you can sing your face off, and that was unbelievable."
Kara: "Adam, that may have been your best performance and interpretation of the song from the beginning of this competition. The combination of the high notes and how you pulled it back and showed the emotion in the song, that's your winning combination: using both sides of yourself. Great."
Paula: "Adam, that was the best I've ever (standing, circling her arm in the air) heard you sing, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever. Unbelievable! Not only that, you look like a superstar up there, and whatever happens -- I'm in awe of your talent -- whatever happens with this "Idol" journey, I know with every fiber of my being that you are going to be iconic. Yes you are."
Simon: "Paula's been sitting on the fence a bit with that one, I think. Adam, all I would say after that is: You are 100% back in the game. Congratulations."

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke

Fuller also selected a consciousness-raising song for Allen, Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." On one hand, we loved the understated acoustic performance. Again very casually dressed, Kris, on guitar, was joined onstage by another guitarist and a couple of guys tapping drums, which were silenced during certain segments of the song. On the other hand, as Randy and Simon correctly pointed out in their critiques, the whole thing was a bit lightweight -- and too happy at times -- for the relevance of the song. Vocally, though, the performance was very good, but not as good as Kris' first song.

Randy: "Listen, it's a great song choice for this time that we're living in (er, yeah, but Kris didn't make the song choice), with what's going on in the world and stuff, but my only thing is, it's a little bit light for this big 'ol room and this point in the competition. I mean you sang it great, it's just a little light for me. I don't know, man. You know what I'm saying?" (How can we know when you say, "I don't know"?)
Kara: "You know, Kris, what I love about you is that you've been true to yourself from Day 1, and you have not wavered, you have not tried to play to the competition. And I like that Simon Fuller chose a socially conscious song for you (what did she think "A Change Is Gonna Come" is?), because you're the kind of artist that can deliver that message and uplift people, make them think, make them feel and make them change."
Paula: "Kris, I know what's going on: You tore that song up and made Marvin Gaye proud." Well, as proud as a dead man can be, anyway.
Simon: "No, I love the song, but if I'm being honest with you (no, lie Simon), it was like three friends in their bedroom strumming along to Marvin Gaye. You did not, in my opinion, grab hold of the song, make it your version. And I thought it was too laid back for a night like this. Sorry."

Ryan: "Simon, at the end of Round 2 -- last round you called it Kris -- at the end of Round 2, who does it go to?"
Simon: " Oh, million percent Adam, Round 2."

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye

All seasonlong, we've been told that Kara is a top songwriter. Tuesday was her chance to prove it. She co-wrote the so-called "coronation song" with Cathy Dennis (you might recall her as the singer of "C'mon and Get My Love," "Touch Me" and other hits) and Mitch Allan. Well, this "coronation song" sucked as badly as any we've heard and, like most, suited one singer -- in this case Adam -- much better than the other. Last season, because there was a songwriting competition, David Cook and David Archuleta each chose the song that suited them best. This year, we were back to both singers having the same bad song forced down their throats. Since Adam has the higher voice and wider range, he was able to "elevate" the mountains and hurricanes in the lyrics (thank god we were spared the rainbows). Trouble was, it was hard to understand the lyrics that Adam sang.

Randy: "Listen, I said it before, I'll say it again: Dude, you can sing anything, you can sing the phone book. But that was not one of my favorite Adam performances, it was was all right for me, to be honest with you. It was a little bit pitchy in spots, for me."
Kara: "Adam, I think I speak on behalf of my co-writers, Cathy Dennis and Mitch Allen, it is amazing when someone with your level of talents [sic] sings a song that we've written. And I'm moved and I'm proud and I thank you for giving me that moment here at the end." Adam lies tells Kara, "Thanks for giving me that song. It was beautiful."
Paula: Adam, adjectives can't express what you've brought to this show, Season 8. It's been truly remarkable. I'm in awe. You can sing whatever you want to sing, and I will be a fan forever, front in line."
Simon: (laughing) "It's the mountains and the hurricanes ..." Kara: "I know, I know." Simon: "I'm not going to judge that song, I'm going to judge you. Over the entire season, you have been one of the best, most original contestants we've ever had on the show. You are. And, you know, the whole idea about doing a show like this is you hope that you can find a worldwide star. I genuinely believe with all my heart we have found that with you. Congratulations." Hmmm, wonder who Simon's rooting for?

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "No Boundaries"

With Kris, on the other hand, you could understand almost all of the lyrics, but with this piece of dreck we're not sure that that was an advantage. Unfortunately, Kris lacked the vocal range to make the treacly song soar the way the producers love these horrible created-for-finale songs to. He seemed to struggle through most of it. But even Kara realized that the song was foisted on him and that Allen shouldn't be judged by her piece of crap but rather by his body of work throughout the season. Kris looked a bit exasperated as he stood before the judges waiting to be judged. He knew it wasn't even close to his finest moment.

Randy: "You should be very proud of what you've done in this competition. I know that key was a little high and you probably couldn't hear yourself or whatever, a little bit at the start of that, but let me tell you something: You are an amazing competitor, you've done amazing in this competition, and I actually think, I was just saying this to Kara, and I actually think that that song even fits your voice a little better for me than even Adam. So good looking out and good luck, baby."
Kara: Kris, I don't want you to be judged on that song. I do think it was too high. I want you to be judged on the fact that you are a compelling artist and you have been an incredible person to watch week-after-week. You've come into your own and I congratulate you for an incredible season. And I hope people vote on the season."
Paula: Yeah, I think you standing up there, you should take it in, you've done an amazing job to end up where you are right now. And I think that this has been one of the most compelling finales and finals showdowns. I wish you the best of luck. You deserve where you are in that spotlight." Well, we already know how Simon feels and Kris gets consolation critiques from the other three judges. Can he still pull it off?
Simon: "Er, Kris, look, again, I think your highlight tonight was the first song you sang. Really. But I think watching you tonight on that stage has been incredible. Because I can remember your first audition where you came in: no confidence, weren't sure how good you were. Your mum and dad's face tells me everything. They're very very proud of you, and so they should be. And you have thoroughly, thoroughly deserved to be standing on this stage tonight. Congratulations." But what was left unsaid by Simon spoke volumes.

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "No Boundaries"

The show closes with Carrie Underwood taking the stage for the second time this season to reprise "Home Sweet Home," the music the show has used as background for each departing contestant's journey video. For all they showed of Carrie, they might as well have played a recording. There were brief flashes of her, but the camera mainly stayed on the clip show of contestant auditions and moments from throughout Season 8.

Watch video of Carrie Underwood singing "Home Sweet Home"

Ryan Seacrest has already announced that tonight's finale will run over its allotted two hours and to set your DVR accordingly. Some of the guests appearing include Steve Martin, Jason Mraz via his Web site, Cyndi Lauper, Queen Latifah, Black Eyed Peas, Lionel Richie, Carlos Santana, David Cook and Keith Urban.

Kris will duet with Keith Urban, Allison Iraheta with Cyndi Lauper and Danny Gokey with Lionel Richie. No word yet on who Adam will do a duet with, though earlier rumors were of David Bowie. However, Bowie's appearance has not even been confirmed. Santana will perform with the Top 13.

And according to the Our Lady Peace Web site, David Cook will perform "Permanent" in honor of his late brother Adam, with proceeds of the iTunes performance going to charity.

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© 2009