Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sundance Roars Back

Last night was "Dedication Night." What did that mean? Well, mostly nothing. The guys chose their songs then did a film clip dedication to air just prior to the song. Of course, most of the dedications went out to wives and girlfriends, parents and grandparents. It was all kind of mushy stupid -- the kind of thing we think Nigel Lythgoe loves -- and much better suited to a Valentine's Day program. In fact, the contestants who got into the most trouble with the genre -- Brandon Rogers and Sanjaya Malakar -- did so because they were more concerned about doing a dedication and song from the heart than picking a song and singing it in a way that would score contest points with viewers.

And so the surprise of the evening was Sundance Head, performing in the pimp spot, who dedicated "Mustang Sally" to his 2 1/2-month-old son, Levi. More concerned about making a connection with the judges and the viewers than a lyrics connection to his son, he really made that song ride, Sally, ride. It was a rousing, growly, bluesy rendition that suited Head perfectly and finally got us revved for the first time all evening. The judges, especially Randy, were ecstactic and Jackson welcomed Sundance back, while Paula told him she didn't know he had that range and that it was his best vocal yet. Simon was not quite as effusive (no surprise) but said he was glad the Sundance they like was back, that he's a good singer, but that he can do better. In a cute moment, Ryan discussed with Sundance how he missed Levi, then they put up a slide of Levi with a drawn-on beard that looked like Sundance's, telling Sundance, "See what can happen when you don't see him for a month?"

The show opened with Phil Stacey, a consistently pleasing performer who we think will make the finals, but doesn't have a chance to win. We also wish he'd go back to wearing a hat when he performs. Some guys look better with a shaved head than others, and he's not one of them. With his long, gaunt face and large ears, he looks too much like an alien for us. He dedicated John Waite's "Missing You" to his command, Navy Band Southeast. We love this song, and Stacey sang it OK, but it has a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g intro and by the time he got to the chorus -- where the song really starts getting good -- he ran out of time and had to end it, so it sounded just too karaoke for us. We thought he would have benefitted greatly starting the song at the first chorus or even the following stanza and ending it at a much more powerful point. Randy, however, said it was hot and Paula told him she loves the tone of his voice and that she could hear him right now on the radio. Thank goodness for Simon, who said he was a nice guy but that his voice is completely unoriginal and that it was like a good karaoke singer.

Jared Cotter was up next. We're prejudiced because Cotter is our hometown contestant, but we really do like both his looks and pleasing voice. We do think, however, that so far his personality has yet to shine strong enough. He needs to keep turning on that charm if he's going to stick around for the finals. Because of last week's critique, he said he wanted to be more adventurous, and dedicated Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" to his parents. The opening was shockingly strong and very reminiscent of Gaye and the rest was pretty good also. Cotter's sexy style enabled him to carry off the song well, though a weird hand over the face move at the end seemed a bit too contrived. But the judges seemed to be unduly harsh on him. Randy said it was pitchy in spots, then Paula started saying he didn't have to push it, got embarrassed and covered her face, so Simon bulldozed his way in saying it was a family show. He said it reminded him of "The Love Boat," and said "I'm kind of imagining if they had a cabaret singer on 'The Love Boat,' I think we would have seen something similar to that, because it was a bit corny in parts." Smartly, instead of sassing back at Simon, Jared demurred, "Wow, that would have been a great 'Love Boat' episode," which not only defused the criticism, but even made Simon smile.

AJ Tabaldo sang "Feeling Good" and dedicated it to his parents in the audience. Tabaldo is very likable and has nice tonal quality and range to his voice, but to us, it was a strange selection and didn't work. We found his performance last week more satisfying. Here, again, we were at odds with the judges, because Randy thought it was a lot better than the week before and Paula thought it was very nice. Even Simon thought it was "actually nearly very good" and said that he liked that AJ's personality had shown through. For us, it was just bleh.

Up next, the biggest disaster of the evening, and no matter how much we say that, he'll be snug as a bug in a rug if DialIdol's stats are right. Sanjaya Malakar once again proved he's too immature to be in this competition. At times he nearly whispered or talked his rendition of "Steppin' Out With My Baby," dedicated to his deceased grandfather. It was all very touching that he wanted to sing this for his grandfather, but it was a wholly inappropriate song for him, he performed it poorly with a paper-thin voice, and, yet again, seemed on the verge of tears (though less so than last week) when he was critiqued. At least we were in sync with the judges on this one. Randy said it was like a bad high school talent show, was weird and didn't work for him, while Paula mumbled something about old souls to avoid knocking the kid. Simon agreed with Randy, adding "It was like some ghastly lunch, where after lunch your parents have asked the children to dress up and sing." He also mentioned that halfway through Sanjaya was whispering.

We always look forward to Chris Sligh's performances and were happy to learn that his band, Half*Past Forever, is about to release their first CD, "Take a Chance on Something Beautiful." You can download it from the band's Web site starting today, or pre-order it on (it drops March 8). Sligh dedicated "Trouble" to his pretty, blonde wife in the audience. It was a good performance, but we thought Taylor Hick's bluesy version was better last season. But it was a still a very respectable effort by Sligh. Randy thought he was better than last week, and Paula told him to watch his pitch. Simon told him, "Chris, the reason we put you through to this round is actually we thought you were a very good singer, and tonight you were a very good singer."

The other bleh moment of the night for us was Nick Pedro singing "Fever" to his pretty girlfriend, Caitlin. He was trying to to return to that "Fly Me to the Moon" vibe that got him his Golden Ticket to Hollywood, but it just didn't work for us at all. This deadly dull rendition gave us fever all right, but not in a good way. We even thought the band was better than Pedro (and, indeed, Simon mentioned the drummer in his critique). Pedro is really too cabaret for a pop competition and seems stuck in the '50s. Although he and Phil Stacey can be compared somewhat in style and type of music they've chosed, Stacey has a much richer voice. We think this will be Nick's final performance. Randy thought it was pitchy but liked that Nick returned to his cool vibe, while Paula loved the tone of his voice. Simon thought it was good, but lacked charisma.

It's amazing how someone can turn you around. We originally disliked beatboxer Blake Lewis from his audition and even the Hollywood rounds. Now we think of him as a breath of fresh air and wait with anticipation to see what he will bring to the competition each week. Again, he did not disappoint with Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity," which he dedicated to his parents. There was good singing, a little scatting and some beatboxing to boot, but not so much that it got on our nerves. We're confident that Blake will make it to the finals without a problem. Of course, Randy loved the performance and Paula said the choice was smart. Simon said Blake was terrific, but "Other than the middle section of the song, I actually didn’t see any originally from you this time. I actually saw a copycat performance." When Ryan tried to dissect his review, Simon got defensive with "I'm sorry I have an opinion."

Brandon Rogers may be the biggest disappointment for us in this competition. He's got a great voice, he's easy on the eyes and has a good personality, but has just not been bringing it since the semi-finals began. He got stuck in the same trap as Sanjaya when he dedicated "Time After Time" to his grandmother. His version just laid there and died. This song is not a great competition song to begin with -- it, and her mohawk, killed Nadia Turner in Season 4 -- and was an especially poor choice on a night when Rogers really had to step it up. It was a soft, boring and forgettable performance. Randy thought it was boring as well, but of course Paula felt his heart. Simon said he loves grandmas but it's a singing competition (thank you, Simon), adding "You have got to come out here Brandon when you're as talented as you are and do what four or five of these girls did last week and make a wow impact."

Chris Richardson we don't get at all. The judges seem to love him, while we just find him annoying. We just want to smack him upside his head when he performs; he hyperactive bouncy body makes us seasick. He dedicated Jason Mraz' "Geek in Pink" to his grandmother, and we barely understood a word he sang. Therefore, we nearly keeled over at the unanimous and profuse praise bestowed on him by the judges. Randy said he was better than the original. Paula loved it and loved that he dedicated that song to his grandmother asking, "Does your grandmother know what 'Geek in the Pink' is?" Simon answered with his weak (but funny) attempt at an American country-bumpkin voice "Wat wuz that song?" When it was his turn up, however, Simon said he thought Chris was the best tonight by a mile (?!).

All in all, it was a night when we frequently disagreed with the judges on the bad ... and the good.
Top 5 in descending order: Sundance Head, Blake Lewis, Chris Sligh, Jared Cotter, Phil Stacey

Bottom 5 in descending order: Sanjaya Malakar, Nick Pedro, Brandon Rogers, Chris Richardson, A.J. Tabaldo

Should go: Sanjaya Malakar, Nick Pedro
Will go: Nick Pedro, Brandon Rogers

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© 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Antonella Everywhere

To our loyal readers,

We apologize for no new posts the past few days. Idol Addict has been really sick and unable to get to the computer. We're on the mend and will attempt to again update at least once a day. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with us.

The Top 10 boys have sung and we'll let you know how we think they did in the morning, meanwhile ...

Love her or hate her, dressed or undressed, Antonella Barba continues to grab more attention than any other semi-finalist. In fact, Yahoo! Buzz reports that Antonella has again topped the list of "American Idol" contestant searches, stating, "Despite her brutal performance on Wednesday, Antonella leads the way. Why? Curious searchers are busy looking for naughty pics of the 20-year-old circulating on the Web."

And pics there are. Not 1, not 10, but dozens and dozens. More and more each day. It seems as if Barba spends the better part of her life in front of a camera. And there's one thing you can't deny looking at these photos -- she's got a rock-solid knockout body. But obscene? Er, no. We hate to ever agree with Barba's BFF Amanda Coluccio, but we've closely compared the more tame and revealing photos (which Amanda has indicated are Barba) with the clearly pornographic fellatio photos and do not think they are of the same girl. Which is not to say that the Barba photos are not a tad scandalous. After all, 19 Entertainment at this very moment is also trying to sell Idol Camp for 12 to 15 year olds, while wet T-shirt, thong, topless, bottomless, and rose petal-strewn pix of American Idol semi-finalist Antonella seem just a click away, everywhere you turn. For those of you who can't stand to miss the latest batch, here is where you can find the pictures being referred to elsewhere as "The Fountain Shots."

Personally, we were most entertained by a series of shots, ahem, mounted by The site says: "We came up with the most SHOCKING pictures of all that will expose the REAL Antonella. After seeing these, there is NO way that Idol will want to kick her out." Hey, these guys really piss us off at times, but you can't deny they're funny. Check out their obviously photoshopped Antonella photos. Yes, it's a crude Photoshop job and they don't try to hide it, but it's also an object lesson in how digital technology has made it easy for even brute amateurs to Forrest Gump anything about anyone on the Internet ... or elsewhere. What you see is not always what you get.


Season 5 finalist Kellie Pickler will appear on this Thursday’s results show to sing her new single "I Wonder" and Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood, whose other awards are becoming too numerous to list, will perform on the March 8 results show.


Fantasia Barrino's original performance of "Summertime"

And for those of you who might also have been ill (or out) and missed the Academy Awards, here are some Jennifer Hudson Oscar-night videos for you to enjoy ...

Barbara Walters interviews Jennifer Hudson on her pre-Oscar show

Jennifer Hudson accepts her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress from George Clooney

Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce sing a medley from "Dreamgirls"

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© 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Further Look at the Elimination Show

We posted a story about the most important happenings on the first elimination show last night. If you didn't get to read it, check the posting right after this one. Here are some other details, plus some thoughts.

Ryan Seacrest told us nearly 32 million votes were cast over the two nights, yet Sundance Head and Antonella Barba were left standing. Were you surprised? If you were, you haven't been reading this blog. If we had any doubt about the role that might have played in Idol's first Season 6 voter-elimination round, it dissipated after we read the following, posted on Thursday on the VFTW home page:

"There won't be a False Idols this week for the females, and we apologize for the down time on the site! We couldn't anticipate the over three million hits to the entire site we received in just two days, and now we're on a much bigger server to handle the ever growing popularity. Thanks to all who voted for Sundance and Antonella, hope that they're safe tonight!"

If that site received over 3 million hits in the two days of voting and only some of the people who visited voted multiple times, it definitely could have had an effect on the outcome. Now, while we realize that a lot of people probably visited VFTW to oogle Antonella's bare breasts or see her sitting on her porcelain throne, we can't discount that these same people might have called in votes. The site also said: "Thank you SO much to everyone who voted, but don't rest on your laurels. We must vote even harder next week because America will be that much more pissed off. So vote twice as hard for both next week, let's get them to the top 12!"

We say its time to take back our program! This might have seemed amusing at first, but enough is enough! Vote early and vote often next week. Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote for anyone except Sundance and Antonella. Let's put VFTW to shame and eliminate those two. Power to the People!

Meanwhile, another site,, has now posted much larger versions of some of the pix that appeared on VFTW, plus a couple of new ones, including their piece de resistance, one we'll call "American Booty." But the Antonella Barba photo mother lode is located at Click on any of the photos there and it'll bring up the entire photo album, which you can then scroll through by using the "previous" or "next" buttons on the top right.

And has anyone else noticed that Antonella's BFF Amanda Collucio is nowhere to be found in these now dozens of pictures? So we couldn't help but wonder: Did she take the photos? Or was she perhaps instrumental in their appearance on the Internet? Just asking.

But back to the show ... Randy told us this was now a girl's race to lose, though Simon said he had seen two of three guys with potential. We suffered through the first first group number, Tears for Fears' "Sowing the Seeds." Perhaps it didn't sound as bad as others from the past (we seem to recall Season 4 as a particularly egregious dog-howling-at-the-moon one for group sings). But can't the executive producers find anything better to fill the unneeded and unbearable 50 extra minutes of each results show they force us to sit through so they can collect an ungodly amount of commercial revenue? We bring them that money and we deserve better.

And speaking of deserving better, here's another pet gripe: Why must we be tormented by a repeat performance by the week's worst instead of the week's best? CBS' "Rock Star" understands that concept. On that show, the singer whom the judges deemed the best each week (this could be done on Idol by the contestant with the highest vote total) performed an encore. Wouldn't you have rather seen LaKisha Jones or Melinda Doolittle again, rather than Paul Kim or Amy Krebs? Isn't it humiliating enough to be told in front of the nation that you sucked the most last night? Must you then have to tearfully repeat your sucky performance (we actually felt pretty bad for Paul Kim. Geez this show is now even bringing the guys to tears).

And one of our faves, Chris "Dead Man Walking" Sligh was forced to eat a little humbe pie when Ryan asked him if he was worried about the results. The usually cocky Sligh admitted he was a bit nervous because he feared that what he called his "banter" with Simon Cowell Tuesday night, had been misunderstood by America -- he was afraid it got taken as disrespect (duh, really?). Sligh said he really loved Simon and Ryan told him to tell America that. So he addressed the viewers with "America, I love Simon!" Uh-huh. And Chris, Simon loves, you, too. And readers, if you believe that, we have a bridge we'd like to sell you. Though Simon's voice could be faintly heard in the background saying, "I like this guy." Guess we'll see whether Simon treats him more like Taylor Hicks or Katharine McPhee in the future. Then we'll know for sure.

We also noted that Ryan was extremely rude to Quincy Jones, who was introduced in the audience as the producer of "The Color Purple" during the Fantasia segment. Ryan inquired whether Fantasia was ready to bring it to the show, and Quincy answered certainly, then began to say something about the show but was immediately cut off by Ryan as the camera was pulled from Jones' face. Hey, could Quincy plugging the show have been any worse than the group sing? Why ask him a question if you really didn't want him to talk? Or was putting him on part of the deal to get Fantasia on the show?


Well, it might not be as much fun as "Meatballs," but FremantleMedia (co-producer and licensor of American Idol) in conjunction with show creator 19 Entertainment has announced the inception of Idol Camp, a noncompetitive performing arts summer camp for kids between the ages of 12-15 based on "American Idol."

Idol Camp will include master classes from surprise celebrity performing artists, former "American Idol" contestants and other top industry professionals. There will be daily instruction in a variety of classes, from singing, dancing and acting to songwriting and audition techniques, as well as traditional camp activities such as swimming and field sports. Idol Camp is located in Northfield, Mass.

FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment will reward a certain percentage of students with fully paid scholarships, based on financial need, in an effort to reach a wide range of the country’s most eager performers. Scholarships are available to students from households with a gross income of $50,000 or less.

Submission of an application does not guarantee acceptance to Idol Camp, which will be based on limited enrollment of applicants demonstrating enthusiasm, dedication, a desire to perform and a passion for the arts. It is not audition-based. Applications must be received no later than April 18, but application acceptance may be stopped prior to that date if all places at Idol Camp have been filled. Enrollment does not guarantee admission into the "American Idol" TV series competition, nor will it provide inside information or any other advantage in the "American Idol" audition process.

There is a nonrefundable $35 application fee and tuition is $2,900 per session. The tuition fee includes camp registration, all programs of instruction, accommodation and meals, T-shirt and cap and transportation to and from Bradley International Airport.

Click here to learn more about Idol Camp.


Here are a couple of videos of Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken's appearance on "The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet" yesterday (thanks Peggy L). Click here for the first clip, in which Clay visits a local bar to judge karaoke with M&J, and then meets his fan Diane “Cookie” Knappenberger, who shows her favorite American Idol her Clay-decorated Saturn. In clip 2, here, Clay and “Cookie” go head-to-head in a (lame) Clay Aiken trivia contest.

And Season 5 finalist Paris Bennett was a guest on Wednesday's show, where she discussed the men's performances from the previous night. You can catch a video clip of her opinions here.


TV Week reports that “American Idol” hit a season-low on Tuesday night (the night of the sucky guys' show), but still dominated keeping competitors on the defensive. “Idol” (11.7) was down 10 percent from last week and at its lowest all season. Overall the current season is still tracking higher than last year's.

... If you have a question for Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, you could pose it in person on's Backlot Talk. Email your question to and if it's selected, you will be contacted with the date and time of the recording. Visit the Web site for all the information you need to include in your e-mail. And check the site on Fridays at 4:30 p.m. EST for the week's new podcast when they'll discuss this week's Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Idol broadcasts. There are also transcript and audio archives on the site of previous interviews with Lythgoe.

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© 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

First 4 Semi-Finalists Eliminated

Ronnie Gill in Newsday writes:

The first cut should have been the deepest, but wasn’t. In fact, it didn’t even separate the wheat from the chaff.

Four semi-finalists were eliminated from “American Idol” tonight, and they weren’t even the worst of the lot. Ending their journeys to the Season 6 title were: Paul Kim, 25, who the judges found pitchy and very ordinary; Amy Krebs, 22, who was warned by Simon Cowell that she didn’t stand out; Nicole Tranquillo, 20, whose song Cowell said sounded over-rehearsed; and Rudy Cardenas, 28, whose performance was called corny by Randy Jackson.

Some would argue that, a Web site that encourages the public to vote for contestants it deems as "the worst," had an effect on the outcome of this week’s voting. It’s two “nominees,” Sundance Head and Antonella Barba, had received fairly scathing critiques from the show’s judges, but survived.

During the course of the show, host Ryan Seacrest revealed that this season’s finalists would be working with a list of all-star mentors that will include Diana Ross, Jon Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez (April 11), Gwen Stefani (March 28), Tony Bennett, Martina McBride, Lulu, Peter Noone and Barry Gibb. Seacrest also introduced a new contest in which entrants could win cash or a trip to Hollywood by giving the correct answer to a multiple–choice question via text-messaging or online.

Season 3 champion Fantasia Barrino made a guest appearance and announced that she would be assuming the role of Celie in the Broadway musical “The Color Purple” on April 10. She then sang “I’m Here” from the show.

More in the morning ...

A League of Her Own

"I am very tempted to say to 23 people book your plane tickets home." -- Simon Cowell, speaking after LaKisha Jones performed "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"

Oh, yes, we agreed. In what was the only true show-stopping performance of the competition so far, LaKisha Jones, who we already liked, became our hero. We even relistened to Jennifer Hudson's version of the song afterwards, and it paled next to LaKisha's, whose lush vocals, emotion and power blew us away. Awesome, just awesome. And we were also bowled over by LaKisha's incredible humility. We really don't think that she yet understands what an amazing national treasure her voice is.

And LaKisha wasn't the only great performance. The girls definitely rule after Wednesday night. Their song choices as well as their performances were better. Instead of just standing on the stage singing, most of the women truly connected with their audience. As Randy rightly put it, if the 12 finalists didn't have to be an equal number of males and females, at this point he would select 8 women and 4 men, just about the numbers we came up with.

But once again, it appears's insidious plans will affect tonight's elimination. Not surprisingly, they selected Antonella Barba as their female counterpart to Sundance Head. This girl really needs to go home. Vocally, she is a lightweight compared to most of the other ladies, and if not the worst performer of the night, she was definitely in the bottom two. Yet, according to, she placed second in number of votes received. If true, it's not funny anymore. We realize that VFTW is skewing the results more dramatically now because, compared with the finale, fewer people vote in the early rounds (although we actually had a lot of trouble getting through to LaKisha's line last night). Long-term, the true fans will wrest back control of the results. But it is disheartening to see failure on the stage being rewarded because of nefarious forces. Plus, we really don't want to be subjected to another week of singing by the worst.

The evening started and ended with strong performances, with many others sprinkled in between. First up was Stephanie Edwards, who gave us chills as she belted out "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore." "How could this be?" we thought. Already the first lady was better than all of the men had been the night before. Randy noted that the performance was pitchy, but that Stephanie sang it with conviction, while Paula called her a star and a wonderful performer. Simon said the song choice was good, the performance was terrific and a million times better than anything the boys did the night before, adding that Stephanie looked like she came out and said she wanted to win "American Idol."

Stephanie was followed by two of the evening's more forgettable performances. Amy Krebs didn't do justice to Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," and the arrangement had a really bad ending. The phrasing has to be done just right to make this song work, whether sung by a man or woman; i.e. George Michael has done a great version of it. Randy termed it a medium middle-of-the-road performance that was a little too safe and Paula agreed. Simon cut deeper, telling Amy, "When you sing you have the personality of a candle" and that unless she did something to stand out, "two singers later I'm going to forget you" (he was right). Perhaps he went a bit overboard when he said even her hair and outfit were forgettable. She looked fine, it was totally a singing issue.

Dog-walker Leslie Hunt didn't fare much better with Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Hunt has an interesting voice but is not a powerhouse singer, but you don't need to be Aretha to make this song work. Carole King, who wrote the song, does a great version, but invests it with a lot of feeling, and Leslie didn't. Again, it all comes down to phrasing. Randy thought the song was too big for Leslie, but Paula thought she did a great job. Simon said it wasn't great and that Leslie looked embarrassed and ungainly when she performed. When booing ensued, Ryan, saying he understood what Simon meant (is that a first?), clarified that Simon felt Leslie appeared to be out of her comfort zone.

Sabrina Sloan was a nice surprise with Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," in a performance that built strength as the song progressed. Never mind Amy and Leslie, was Sabrina already making us forget Stephanie Edwards? (Sadly, Sabrina is third from last on DialIdol's talley and is definitely in danger of being eliminated tonight). Randy excitedly told her "That's the way to sing, that's the one to beat. That was hot," as Paula gave her a standing ovation. Simon declared the performance the best one so far.

And then disaster struck. Antonella Barba offered a weak, pitchy version of Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." Forget Aerosmith, Barba's no Lindsey Cardinale, the Season 4 finalist whose smoky voice did this song so much more justice. We don't even think Barba knew how bad she was until Randy asked her what she thought he was going to say. You could almost she the light bulb go on over her head as she realized she was in trouble and said, "You felt my nerves?" In what is becoming his trademark Season 6 gesture -- as if it pains him to criticize the contestants -- Randy sighed, then head in hands leaned down toward the desk, before straightening up again and telling her, "It just wasn't good" and that it was pitchy and bland. Paula, sensing Antonella was about to start crying, tried to shore her up with "It wasn't bad, you had some pitch problems," then went into her "you're an amazingly beautiful girl" routine (ahem, who can't sing worth a crap).

Never afraid to step on feelings, Simon jumped in with: "The good news is you're attractive" (uh-oh). "The bad news is it didn't work. It was way, way, way too big for you." Antonella's smile was beginning to waver now and we saw a shot of her parents in the audience. Her father, who didn't seem to get what was about to happen, had an idiot smile on his face, while the pasted-on smile on her mother (who is even better looking than Antonella and looks like her sister) was beginning to melt and droop, as Simon told Antonella "You've seriously damaged your chance of staying here another week." Antonella looked shocked and incredulous, with saucer-sized eyes. Incredible! She never saw it coming. But, fortunately, it looks like VFTW will prove Simon wrong. And, if she does survive, we're sure Antonella won't realize it's because she's become a national joke.

Thankfully, Jordin Sparks was up next. We just adore this 17-year-old from Seattle with a big old voice and bigger, bubbly personality. In the past Simon has criticized her for being too sugary, and, before singing, she told Ryan that maybe there will be one or two less lumps tonight. She was so spirited and fun we wanted her to succeed and she didn't disappoint with Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason," an interesting song selection. Randy wanted her to challenge herself more, telling her that her voice is so big that there is probably no song that is too big for her. Paula thought the song selection was great and that Jordin should "Go for it, go for it, go for it." Simon said she has a very good voice and advised her to "Push yourself and you may surprise a few people in this competition."

Nicole Tranquillo, who has had very little face time, was an unknown quantity coming into this round and might remain so if she goes home tonight. She has a powerful voice, but her version of Chaka Khan's "Stay" was a nasally mumble that didn't work. Now and then her voice would poke through the mess she was singing -- or screaming -- but it was not enough to redeem the performance. Randy told her it just wasn't working and was too rough for him (and us, and the world), but Paula felt she could really sing and had great range and control. Simon said "It was indulgent, it was aggressive, it looked unnatural, it looked fake," adding "It looked like you'd been over-reheasing it" and telling her that song choice was very important and "that wasn't you."

Next up was Haley Scarnato, who we've had doubts about since she got her Golden Ticket in San Antonio. She sang Celine Dion's "All Coming Back to Me Now," and it was far too vibrato for our taste, although Haley looked great (oh god, we're beginning to sound like Paula). It was "just OK" for Randy, who said it was a good song choice for her because she had a Broadwayish voice, but added that he had wanted to be wowed a little bit more. Paula thought Haley did a nice job but was disappointed that she chose to sing the same song she sang during the Hollywood rounds. Simon asked her age (24), then told her she "sounded 40" and that "Everything about you tonight is old. It was a little boring, I thought." And forgettable, too, we'd add.

Melinda Doolittle, who will never have to go back to being a backup singer after Idol, should make it to the final five. In fact, we think she and LaKisha could be battling it out for the top spot (why is it that the two best singers in this competition are also the two most humble?). But there was no shyness when Melinda sang Aretha Franklin's "Since You've Been Gone." Hello, did anyone sing earlier in the evening? We can't seem to recall anyone prior to Melinda! She did an AMAZING job. Randy said she blew it out of the box and that she was da bomb, while Paula called her a front-runner and firecracker. In what might have been a shot meant for Chris Sligh, Simon said "It's interesting that over the last two nights we have seen some people with little talent and a huge amount of arrogance, and you are the opposite." Cowell, who has been taken with her (as he is with LaKisha) since her audition, added, "You are an incredible singer, you have a fantastic story, you're a fantastic person. I really hope you do well."

For the woman who weeps all the time because she's "emotional and passionate," Alaina Alexander 's performance was a crying shame. It would have been the perfect time to take a bathroom break. It's never a good idea to be boring, bland and occasionally pitchy, but to do that to The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket (I'm Special)" following someone as good as Melinda Doolittle will probably prove lethal. Randy said Alaina really wasn't great and a little pitchy, while Paula said she didn't feel it and thought that Alaina really didn't make the song her own. And Simon, bless his soul, pointed out to Alaina that "You kept singing that line 'I'm special' and it wasn't. I think you lost it halfway through." In an odd turn, when Ryan asked what Alaina could do to get better, Simon asked Ryan if he was trying to date Alaina. As Alaina stood there looking stunned and confused, Ryan answered that it didn't deserve a comment, which Simon said meant "Yes." Hello, what was going on there? It certainly was more interesting than Alaina's performance.

Gina Glocksen was next with "All by Myself," which started a bit weak, but ended strongly. Gina told Ryan that before her performance she would have rated her confidence as a "6" out of 10, but afterwards it was "12," because she hit the final note that she had been having trouble with in rehearsal. Randy said "Big girl, big voice, big song," adding that it had a nice quality, and Paula said she chose the right song to sing. Simon said he didn't "think you hit that big note though, but we'll see."

In the pimp spot, and deservedly so, was the wonderful LaKisha Jones, who you already know was great. Interestingly, Ryan, going into a commercial break prior to her performance, said "We'll be right back with a show-stopper from LaKisha Jones." A little editorializing prior to the performance? Hmmm, have the producers already picked the winner? And, thank you LaKisha, finally someone had the lyrics right. We kept hearing LaKisha sing "You're gonna love me." And we did.

Best of the Evening (in descending order): LaKisha Jones, Melinda Doolittle, Sabrina Sloan, Stephanie Edwards, Jordin Sparks

Worst of the Evening (in descending order): Alaina Alexander, Antonella Barba, Amy Krebs, Nicole Tranquillo

Mediocre and Forgettable (in any order): Gina Glocksen, Leslie Hunt, Haley Scarnato

Should Go: Alaina Alexander, Antonella Barba
Will Go: Alaina Alexander, Amy Krebs

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© 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The 12 Guys

Be scared America -- be very scared. And for so many reasons. We sat through weeks of Idol auditions, the good and the bad (mostly the bad). We sat through a mercifully short week of Hollywood sessions. We waited with anticipation for the real competition to begin. And, like the judges, we were terribly disappointed with the men on Week 1.

Of course, it would be impossible to be more disappointed than the judges, because nearly everyone, with the possible exception of Blake Lewis, took a beating. Have the judges always been this critical on Week 1? Even Paula? Paula!!! Don't think so. They were tough to please indeed. Even the contestants we thought did well received only a pittance of praise -- if any at all.

But what scares us even more, are this morning's results on, a service that has viewers vote through its phone lines to predict the outcome of the ballotting. Last season, much to the consternation of Fox and "American Idol," the service proved to be fairly accurate. By the end of the competition we felt confident we knew the results way before they were announced on the show, and we were rarely disappointed. watchers were probably the only Idol fans in the country that weren't shocked when Chris Daughtry was eliminated and Katharine McPhee wasn't. We knew the numbers said there was a good likelihood it would happen. We also knew, with smug certainty, Taylor Hicks was safe when he went up against McPhee and Elliott Yamin, and that there was no way McPhee could win after she went head-to-head with Hicks in the finale.

So why are we worried? Because topping's performance list for Tuesday night -- the person who ostensibly is the safest of the safe -- was one of the worst of the worst. His name is followed by another on our worst list, and the third name on the list is someone who only gave a mediocre performance. If you trust the stats, the only three male performers who are absolutely safe from elimination Thursday night are Sundance Head, Sanjaya Malakar and Chris Richardson. Excuse us while we get sick.

The only people doing the dance of joy today, outside of Sundance and his family, are the folks at The site that brought us those dazzling photos of Antonella Barba on the throne could now put this whole competition in the toilet by advising its users to vote for the contestant they call "ManBearPig," with the slogan "Bad Head is better than no Head!" We've got to believe that that is the reason Head is in the lead -- and not that America actually thought his performance was good.

Here's how the night played out:

Rudy Cardenas kicked off the guys with the Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride," which apparently also describes what Cardenas got to the semi-finals. Question? Did anyone understand a word that he sang? He mumbled the entire song. Or, we think he did: We were so bored with the performance we weren't listening that closely. Randy thought it was corny, and we totally agreed with Simon's appraisal that Cardenas does not have a distinctive voice and that he would get lost in the mix. So, Simon, exactly why was he put through to the semi-finals?

Brandon Rogers, one of the two pro backup singers to make the semi-finals, did a fair rendition of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You." The beginning of the arrangement was slow and interesting, but it became more pedestrian as it proceeded, a pleasant performance that was also extremely forgettable. But Rogers has a likability that should keep him safe this week. Randy felt the performance was pitchy and weird, and both he and Paula wished there had been less runs -- that Rogers was singing the song more as a backup singer than as a lead. Simon declared that Rogers was better than the material and that the performance was safe and predictable.

Sundance Head, whom the judges said they originally liked because of his bluesy voice, massacred the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin." His dull karaoke version, employing theatrically outstretched arms, was hardly ever on pitch. Randy said he didn't think Sundance was on pitch the whole song and Paula agreed, saying the pitch was all over the place. Simon jumped in with "You were like a dad at a wedding ... very old-fashioned, very uninspiring," and told Sundance that if he had sung this at his audition, they would have never put him through. Cowell ended with "I didn't like you tonight."

Paul Kim, barefoot or not, in our opinion is one of those guys who inexplicably got through to the semi-finals without the goods. We winced our way through his version of George Michael's "Careless Whisper," a song we really like, wanting him to stop with every note. This wasn't even good enough to be karaoke. Randy thought it pitchy and weird and that the falsetto didn't work, while Paula thought he oversang the song and didn't find his center. Simon suggested Paul put his shoes on next time he sings and called the performance a very ordinary attempt to copy George Michael, labelling it a third-rate version of the song.

Chris Richardson is one of those happy, peppy guys who reminds us of a 5-year-old trying to be a grown-up when he performs. He was out of his element with Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want to Be," a song that was bigger than him ... especially after you've heard Bo Bice sing it (we actually like Bice's version even better than DeGraw's). Randy said "You made it kinda work," and Paula thought it was a great arrangement (a bit too hyper for our taste). Simon thought Chris' voice sounded very small and said if he was judging it on the vocal, he thought it was substandard. But he said the girls will vote for him, and apparently he's right.

Nick Pedro should have done OK with Richard Marx's "Now and Forever," but the spark he carried into his audition with "Fly Me to the Moon" was gone. We thought he would at least melt the little girls' hearts with this song, but he's dead last on's list and will likely be eliminated Thursday night. Randy found him pitchy and boring and said "It just wasn't good for me." Paula said the magic fell flat. Surprisingly, Simon was kindest of all, telling Nick that he missed his liveliness and confidence, but that his voice didn't sound bad. He also told Nick he's a very charming guy and that he thought he'd be back next week. But we doubt it.

Blake Lewis was the stunner of the evening. Up to this point, we couldn't even remember him singing, only beatboxing, which got tired real quickly. This is, after all, a singing competition. But, Blake, whose looks remind us of Sting (not in this picture, but while he was performing), knocked our socks off with Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know." A great song choice, a great voice and the first performance of the night we totally loved. And it was from Blake, someone we had written off as a one-trick pony. We've totally revised that opinion and now predict he'll land in the Top 5. Go, Blake, go! Sadly, Randy only kinda dug it and missed the beatboxing (idiot!), while Paula told him his vocals were spot on and that he brought a contemporary vibe. Simon said he was the first person that night who came out and sounded like 2007, declaring it "the best performance we had tonight." And we agree!

Sanjaya Malakar is a nice kid -- with the emphasis on KID. This 17-year-old does not have the professional or emotional maturity to sing Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet," a song he really mucked up. It was sung much better by Elliott Yamin last season. And let's not even talk about the Luther Vandross version, which just melts us. And, Sanjaya, never sing a song with a lyric such as "I don't want to bore you," when you are doing just that. Every time you sang it, we laughed. Sanjaya said his sister, who was eliminated from the competition in Hollywood, picked the song for him. Not the best advice, Sanjaya, plus we think you need to stop playing the sister card. Randy trashed him so much we thought he would cry, telling him "I didn't think it was very good, dude. It wasn't even remotely close." And Simon named it "The most dreary performance we had all night," saying that it sounded like it took an hour and calling it "A waste-of-time performance."

Chris Sligh was someone we were anxiously waiting to hear. We love the music he does with his band. He chose "Typical" by Mute Math, neither a song nor a group we had ever heard of, but he made it work. Randy told him he's a Chris fan and that his voice was on point; Paula thought the song choice was great, though both Randy and Paula told Chris he was singing a bit ahead of the music. Simon said he liked Chris, but added that "I kind of felt I was at some weird student gig." This led to an exchange between Simon and Ryan.

And then the trouble started. Chris told Simon that the audience seemed to like this music and that "I don't sing Il Divo or The Teletubbies ..." (hey, were we the only ones in the world unaware that Simon was responsible for the Teletubbies?), a remark that had Randy and Paula hooting and clapping. Simon tersely remarked that Chris could sing for the latter, meaning The Teletubbies. Sensing he was treading dangerous waters, Chris then told Simon, "You know I love you." Simon said he liked Chris, too, but that his performance was not outstanding and that was all he was trying to say. But you could see that Simon was pissed, way pissed by the shot Chris had taken at him.

Then Ryan jumped in to add fuel to the fire saying that Chris had made Simon feel bad, which pissed off Simon even more. Simon told Ryan that he had made things very uncomfortable. Simon's jaw was set so tight, we thought he'd crack a bone. He kept his face turned to the side and he wouldn't even look directly at Ryan or Chris on the stage. All we can say is "uh-oh" and stay tuned for the fireworks next week (if Chris, or as we now call him, Dead Man Walking, even survives to next week).

Jared Cotter is a native Long Islander and we're rooting for him to move on. We thought he did a very respectable version of Brian McKnight's "Back at One." He sounded good, had a relaxed demeanor and exuded charm. Randy thought he was pretty good, but didn't like the way it ended, while Paula would have preferred a more up-tempo song. Simon found Jared very unadventurous and told him he sounded a bit nasally, but said he looked good. Don't know if looks alone will carry Jared to next week, though he certainly deserves to move on to the next round.

AJ Tabaldo, like Jared, has received very little face time so far, so we were surprised and pleased to hear and see his version of Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much." It was a good upbeat choice and he performed it well. Randy said vocally it was pretty good and that AJ had worked it out. Paula told AJ he could sing and did a great job. Simon rebutted that, saying it was good, not great, not terrible. He then called it a theme-park performance that was very safe and very predictable.

Phil Stacey, whose wife gave birth to their second daughter the morning he originally auditioned, wound up tied with Blake for best performance of the night. Maybe it was the fact that his wife was in the audience beaming up at him or the fact they showed a clip of him with his new daughter, but this sailor (he's in the Navy) touched our hearts with his rendition of "I Could Not Ask for More" by Edwin McCain. Yes, it started out weak, but it was all uphill after the chorus and he brought it home. Randy gave it the best vocal prize of the night, but Simon, after saying the beginning was monstrous, said it was just OK, especially compared to singers such as Chris Daughtry. We still thought it was much better than OK.

Best of the Evening (in descending order): Blake Lewis, Phil Stacey, Chris Sligh, Jared Cotter, AJ Tabaldo
Worst of the Evening (in descending order): Paul Kim, Sundance Head, Rudy Cardenas, Sanjaya Malakar
Mediocre and Forgettable (in any order): Brandon Rogers, Chris Richardson, Nick Pedro

Should Go: Paul Kim, Sundance Head
Will Go: Paul Kim, Nick Pedro

We really can live without the hyperactive parents rooting their kids on. Last year we suffered through Katharine McPhee's witchy mom and bawling dad. This year we have Chris Richardson's red-faced dad attempting (that being the operative word) to dance to his singing, or as Paula put it, when Chris was on the upbeat his father was on the downbeat.


Fox has announced that "American Idol" executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick have been named the executive producers for the "59th Primetime Emmy Awards" which will air on Fox on Sept. 16, live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

The announcement was made jointly today by Dick Askin, chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, and Peter Liguori, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company. “Nigel and Ken have consistently raised the creative bar with their innovative work on "American Idol" and we believe they will continue to do so during their first Emmy telecast,” said Liguori.

"Nigel and Ken are terrific producers, and their expertise in live event programming will be a major asset to this year's Primetime Emmy telecast," said Askin.

“The Emmy Awards not only celebrate excellence in television, the Emmy Awards are excellent television. Star power, production values, drama, suspense, tears and euphoria, just like an 'American Idol.' While appreciating the traditional and maintaining the high standards of past Emmy Award ceremonies, we will also be recognizing the ever-changing landscape of today’s successful television. It is a great honor and a wonderful challenge,” said Lythgoe.

“I am thrilled to be invited by the Television Academy to produce this year’s Emmy telecast. Shows with the prestige of the Emmys are a producer’s dream, so I am really looking forward to the challenge and am confident we will produce for Fox the best Emmys to date,” said Warwick.

... Fantasia is the special guest star on tomorrow night's results show. We voted for Fantasia during Season 3, but hated her last Idol guest appearance two years ago, when she screamed her song. Let's hope it's better than that.

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© 2007